Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shelly Silver And His Shady Control Over The LMDC

There has been plenty to gripe about when it comes to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The way he controls every single Democratic member in the State House, how contributions flow in from groups he rewards by killing key legislation (see: congestion pricing) and his special skills of causing gridlock in Albany. Well, it seems he is also good at using state agencies known for not doing much at all to help his pet projects around the Lower Manhattan district he calls home.

From The NY Post:

In the last two years, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has shelled out nearly $12 million to many of the same community and cultural groups that Silver has steered pork money to, an analysis by The Post has found.

"The allocations look more like [Silver's] 'member items' these days," fumed an LMDC board member, using the Albany term for pet pork projects.

Yeah I know, I'm going off the Post here but Silver's actions are worth it. It is Democrats like him that cling to the old ways (or present) where patronage and pay to play politics rules and the best decisions for the people of New York are thrown to the wayside. It is hard to deny that a higher percentage of the LMDC's money is going to the places Silver wants and has nothing to do with developing Lower Manhattan in any kind of prudent manner.

Now the programs that are getting money aren't all bad by any means. Many of them have worthy objectives. Yet the mission of the LMDC was to help rebuild the area after 9/11 and as almost in NY government has made clear, the Corporation should be shutdown precisely because it wasn't doing it's job (not to mention being a part of the deaths of the two firefighters in the Deutsche Bank Bldg.). At the moment, it is only doing the job of providing pork for Shelly Silver.

Fighting Terror With....Viagra?

When it comes to Afghanistan, Western intelligence operatives have come to realize that carpet-bombing innocent civilians does not provide the best information. Now, making friends with the locals is great, but it seems that giving key elders that little blue pill made by Pfizer is even better.

Finally, Counting The Last Padavan-Gennaro Ballots Will Begin

Nearly two months have gone by since election day and still, one race is not over in New York. Incumbent Frank Padavan is up over 500 votes, yet his team has tried to blockade the counting of nearly 2,000 votes that were initially rejected by the Board of Election. Sen. Frank Padavan has desperately wanted this whole thing to be over with and force a concession from Jim Gennaro, but the Democrat is holding fast to the priniciple that all eligible votes be counted. Finally the courts have decided to let those last ballots be added to the mix.

From The NY Times:

The Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court ruled that the counting of about 1,750 paper ballots could proceed in the razor-thin contest, blocking an attempt by lawyers on behalf of Mr. Padavan to halt any further vote counting.

“Frank Padavan and the Republicans have now asked two different courts to stop the Board of Elections from counting legitimate ballots,” said Mike Barfield, a spokesman for the Gennaro campaign. “Each time the courts have directed that the ballots be reviewed, but Frank Padavan seems to think that the counting of valid votes should stop simply because he is ahead.”
The truth is that Gennaro has long odds in pulling this thing out, even with 1,750 ballots left to be counted. Sure, he could win them by a margin of 1,175 to 575 and win this thing by 20 votes but the chances of that are slim. Jim would make an excellent Senator in the place of Padavan, but it looks like that will have to wait for two years. Still, I'll keep my fingers crossed, ya never know, right?

Getting The Coal Truth From Tennessee Is Hard To Do

This past week has been extremely rough in the area of Central Tennessee affected by the dam break that was holding back a large amount of coal sludge. Initial reports said that only a few homes were damaged and that the analysis of the sludge was not harmful where it spread. No big deal right? Wrong. A coal fired power plant's byproducts are a serious issue and finding out what truly happened is essential here.

From The NY Times:

Authority officials initially said that about 1.7 million cubic yards of wet coal ash had spilled when the earthen retaining wall of an ash pond breached, but on Thursday they released the results of an aerial survey that showed the actual amount was 5.4 million cubic yards, or enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep. The amount now said to have been spilled is larger than the amount the Authority initially said was in the pond, 2.6 million cubic yards.
Of course, the T.V.A. was quick to dismiss the potential bad news:

“You’re not going to be endangered by touching the ash material,” said Barbara Martocci, a spokeswoman for the T.V.A. “You’d have to eat it. You have to get it in your body.”

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation also released a statement saying there was no indication of risk unless the ash was ingested.
Yet, they forget to play things out. No one is going to literally pick up pieces of ash and eat them as you'd pick berries in the forest. The problems from disasters like this are mostly in the future and residents are pissed that not much is really being done.

“We’re terribly frustrated,” said Donald Smith, 58, a laboratory facilities manager who lives in the affected area. “It seems like T.V.A. is just throwing darts at the problem, and they don’t have a clue how to really fix it.

“It was nice that they came by to talk to us. They’re making an effort. But what upsets me is they didn’t have a plan in place. Why hadn’t anybody thought, ‘What happens if this thing bursts?’ ”

Well Donald, coming up with a plan would have expended time and energy, something the Authority obviously didn't care for. They did have things ready to save valuable materials (see the article for the stuff on bowling balls for example) and were ready to work furiously to re-open the roads and especially railways that bring the coal to the plant to be processed.

In this age of government where the system has been purposefully broken by conservative ideology, it is only natural that the Authority is following the lead of the federal (and state) government. Looking after the moneyed interests always comes first before the safety and health of people affected by man-made tragedies such as this.

This Year's War On The War On Christmas Floundered

Yet again, Bill O'Reilly and his gang at Fox News tried to paint the mean ol' Democrats as trying to ruin Christmas. Apparently, trying to extend the holiday spirit to Americans that aren't Christian is a terrible thing and must be wiped out. To nuts like O'Reilly, saying "Happy Holidays" will make it hard for observant Christians to make it to mass and be able to fill their trees with ornaments at home.

At least fewer people are taking him seriously anymore, hopefully that attitude can be extended to his network throughout the year.

Fidler Wants His Cake, Tries To Eat It Too

When it comes to having an abundance of emotion, Lew Fidler can be counted among those that have it in City Hall. He can talk up a storm and pound his fist on the table for good measure. Fidler certainly did that in the wake of the property tax hike initiated by Bloomberg and shortly after the Mayor's "gutless" comment for all those that didn't vote his way. Lew was outraged, outraged I tell ya!

Check out this sternly-worded statement:

I just wanted to tell each of you that the Mayor has some frickin' nerve calling the CMs who voted no on the property tax increase "gutless". I wanted to remind all of you---or tell you if you had not heard this before---that this is the same Mayor who told me that it would be better politically to do it sooner rather than closer to the election. So who is gutless? The people who stood up and said "this is not necessary now. If we have to do it later because it becomes necessary then we will,", or the guy who says let's do it sooner so the voters might not be as mad when the election comes around.

When he called me in his round of phone calls to thank members who supported the term limits extension, he immediately went to the property tax and said---and I quote---"It would probably be better politically if we did this now rather than later anyway."

I would not share a private conversation this way if he had not made such an outrageous public comment. I guess when you have been a business executive and did not need the cooperation of democratically elected co-workers, you could function this way. After 7 years, its hard to believe that he doesn't recognize the world he works in.

Lew Fidler

Aww Lew, after seven years, it is unbelievable that you do not recognize that very same world. For the sake of your own self-interest, you voted for the term limit extension that is meant to help you and the Mayor in power. Sure, I heard your excuses before about why you oppose term limits and that this is just an opportune time to get it done. Nevermind of course that your actions helped to see an undemocratic means get to its end.

Basically, Lew stuck with the Mayor when it was advantageous to him, and now that the CM wants to be seen as fighting for the people who own homes in his district, he is a screamin' and a shoutin'. I have to admit, even though Bloomberg is a gutless wonder himself, he is right that there are gutless Councilmembers out there, like Lew Fidler.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oceans Are Rising Faster And Faster

Thankfully the amount of climate crisis deniers is falling. More and more of us are coming to the realization that our planet, while it is massive, is very susceptible to the industrialization and pollution that we put into the ecosystem. Unfortunately, that increasing awareness has not stopped the dire predictions for the effects of our man-made change in the climate. The oceans are now expected to rise more than ever before.

From The Washington Post:

Thirty-two scientists from federal and non-federal institutions contributed to the report, which took nearly two years to complete. The Climate Change Science Program, which was established in 1990, coordinates the climate research of 13 different federal agencies.

Tom Armstrong, senior adviser for global change programs at USGS, said the report "shows how quickly the information is advancing" on potential climate shifts. The prospect of abrupt climate change, he said, "is one of those things that keeps people up at night, because it's a low-probability but high-risk scenario. It's unlikely to happen in our lifetimes, but if it were to occur, it would be life-changing."

In one of the report's most worrisome findings, the agency estimates that in light of recent ice sheet melting, global sea level rise could be as much as four feet by 2100. The IPCC had projected a sea level rise of no more than 1.5 feet by that time, but satellite data over the past two years show the world's major ice sheets are melting much more rapidly than previously thought. The Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are now losing an average of 48 cubic miles of ice a year, equivalent to twice the amount of ice that exists in the Alps.

Four feet may not sound like a lot, but when you examine world geography along the thousands upon thousands of miles of coastline, the results are devastating. Not only will rising seas wipe out many coastal cities and ports, but regions inland will see drastic changes in their weather patterns, leading to more instability than what we see now. There is a lot more in the report and I suggest everyone read it...and then get into action, reducing your own impact and advocating for change in our communities and national governments.

Here in America, we must make sure that President Obama and Congress spend money to ensure we switch to clean energy to rebuild our infrastructure. That means less cars, more mass transit and ridding ourselves of coal and oil power and replace it with solar and wind. There's no more time to waste.

Councilwoman Mendez Sets Bloomberg Straight On Term Limits

Rosie Mendez is my Councilwoman in District 2 and she stood up in front of the Mayor to address her concerns on term limits. She still wants the issue to be addressed by the public through a special election (though the Mayor feels differently of course). Except for the comment about her constituents wanting to re-elect Bloomberg, her two minutes at the podium wasn't half bad.

Is This The Future For The Republican Party?

The Republican Party is doing some heavy soul searching these days. How will they recoup from the devastating losses in the House, the Senate and State Legislatures across the country (not to forget the White House of course). What is the vision for the GOP as a dwindling set of loyal opposition? Is there a set of policies or perhaps a specific focus such as health care? Or maybe some of their leaders just want more bitter partisan attacks, including ones that hinge on race.

From TPM:

If one of the Republican Party's challenges is how to effectively oppose the first black president without coming off as racist, one of the candidates for RNC chair is hardly off to a good start -- he is now distributing a CD that includes a racially-charged song called "Barack, The Magic Negro."

Chip Saltsman, the former campaign manager for Mike Huckabee, has distributed a goodie bag to committee members that includes a CD by Paul Shanklin, a writer of right-wing parody tunes who is often featured on Rush Limbaugh. The "Magic Negro" track, which first gathered controversy in the Spring of 2007, featured Shanklin portraying Al Sharpton as an Amos & Andy stereotype, ridiculing white liberals who support Obama.

So that's how you try and woo over Republican officials to make you king of the party? I surely hope that those getting their goodie bags are throwing away that racist crap as soon as they lay eyes on it. If they do not, that thinking is going to doom them for years to come as the majority of this nation progresses on the long road to racial harmony....while they're stuck in the ditch.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Blog-Mas Miracle For The Sampson Family

During the holiday (and really any day during the year), hearing about warm and fuzzy stories are always a nice way to fill in the relatively slow news cycle. Plenty of Americans like to watch "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street" for that cheerful feeling. While those are works of old Hollywood fiction, there are great stories out in the real world. For the Sampson family in Aberdeen, MD their holiday miracle was fueled by an entity not around just a few years ago, the blogosphere.

See, the family was over-run by injuries, an unexpected pregnancy, being out of work, having cars repossessed and nearly losing their home. Right before they were about to be booted from their homes in this terrible economic environment, a friend of theirs, Jaki Grier was jokingly asked for $10,000 to stave off the bank from foreclosing on them. Well, Jaki didn't donate much, but the blogging she did brought in even more.

From CNN:

At the most, Jaki thought she could raise enough money to help the Sampsons pay a security deposit on an apartment after their home was auctioned.

But donations started pouring in. Within 24 hours, Grier's blog had raised $1,000, far exceeding her expectations. People started linking to Grier's blog from sites across the Internet and around the country.[...]

"Everybody wants to give to a charity, but so many times when you give to a charity you don't really see where your money goes," Grier said. "At least with this, you saw the little [donations] ticker go. I think that made people excited."

Four days after Grier's blog post, she had raised $3,400 -- enough to repair the Sampsons' car. That night, Grier went to bed ecstatic. The next morning she checked her PayPal account and was stunned to find the balance had ballooned to $10,900.

And it got even better from there. With over $11,000 taken in, the local traditional media station got word and things got even better. Someone watching the local station gave Mr. Sampson a job. Charitable outpourings from the community have happened plenty of times before, but in no way has it been this easy to post a story and get such an immediate reaction. A project can spread by word of mouth, but on the blogs it goes like wildfire. Cheers to the power of the net and to everyone that helped the Sampson's keep their home.

A Capella Christmas

I'm not the biggest fan of Christmas songs but I have to admit this medley by Straight No Chaser was a lot of fun:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

For All The Lawyers On Christmas

Props to Asinus Asinum Fricat at Daily Kos for this gem:

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g., stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter. The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as ("I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the party of the second part (hereinafter "Mama"), and said Mama had retired for a sustained period of sleep. At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g., kerchief and cap.

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e., the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter "the Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter "the Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named "Rudolph" may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items.

He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words to that effect.

Looks like Santa got away with that one!

A Not So Merry Christmas In Tennessee

I am blessed enough in my life that I can fly down to warm, sunny Florida and spend time with my girlfriend and her parents for this holiday season. At least so far, I do not have to deal with any calamities, either natural or man-made. However, up in Tennessee, a dam broke just two days ago near the town of Harriman and damaged several homes. Luckily no one was seriously injured or killed.

From The Huffington Post:

HARRIMAN, Tenn. — An earthen dam holding back a retention pond broke early Monday at a power plant run by the nation's largest public utility, releasing a frigid mix of water, ash and mud that damaged 12 homes and put hundreds of acres of rural land under water.

The 40-acre pond was used by the Tennessee Valley Authority to hold a slurry of ash generated by the coal-burning Kingston Steam Plant in Harriman, about 50 miles west of Knoxville, said TVA spokesman Gil Francis. The dam gave way just before 1 a.m, burying a road and railroad tracks leading to the plant under several feet of dark gray mud.

So far the blame has been put on heavy rain and cold temperatures. I'm not an engineer, but I simply do not buy that. Dams that are built to hold the waste of a coal power plant should be able to withstand changes in the weather. I'm glad that the Tennessee Valley Authority is going to check up on the other fifty-something year old dams in the area, but a better investment is needed in these structures that have so much potential destructive energy in them. Or else next time we might not be as lucky with injuries or fatalities.

And The Golden Duke Award Nominees Are...

The nominees announced for all the Golden Duke awards are tough competitors in their respective categories. Here's the rundown and check out TPM for the results on New Year's Eve:

Who are your favorites?

Crooked Brooklyn Real Estate Developer Pardoned By Bush (Update: Pardon Rescinded!)

To be fair, President Bush doesn't offer many pardons and I'd be surprised if he bested Clinton's list. However, that doesn't mean some of his choices are a smack in the face to the victims of certain lucky criminals' crimes. Isaac Toussie is one of those lucky people, officially pardoned of duping a particularly nasty predatory lender in Brooklyn.

From The NY Daily News:

Bush pardoned Isaac Toussie, 36, two days before Christmas in a gesture of mercy that outraged ex-customers who said they were duped into buying overpriced, defective homes.

"We're in the middle of a mortgage crisis [and] this is somebody who was alleged to have participated in predatory lending practices," said Peter Seidman, a lawyer who represents 460 people who say they were fleeced.

Why would George Bush think to give this scumbag a pass? How is Isaac Toussie, someone hardly connected to the White House and hardly in the news allowed to be pardoned? The guy served five months in prison with no restitution for his many victims. Who knows if he learned anything from that small sentence that equated justice for so many ruined lives. So what gives?

Federal Election Commission records show Toussie's father, Robert, made his first political donation last April - $28,500 to the Republican National Committee.

Ah, yeah, right. It all comes down to someon's sudden interest in helping finance the Republican Party.


I guess all that bad publicity had an effect on the White House, so they decided to cancel Isaac's pardon...bravo!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Obama To Place His Hand On Lincoln's Bible

With all the controversy surrounding the Rick Warren choice for the inauguration, the soon-to-be Obama Administration sought to put out some good news today. Good news would mean not bringing up the homophobic pastor. So, for Obama, this is definitely a welcome change in the events leading up to the big day next month.

From Bloomberg News:

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office on the same Bible that President Abraham Lincoln used when he was inaugurated in 1861.

“The president-elect is committed to holding an inauguration that celebrates America’s unity, and the use of this historic Bible will provide a powerful connection to our common past and common heritage,” said Emmett Beliveau, executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Obama, who will be sworn in as the 44th president on Jan. 20, will be the first to use Lincoln’s Bible at his inauguration. The Bible is part of the collection of the Library of Congress, the inaugural committee said in a release.

Not only does this small detail convey a powerful message relating the 44th President to the 16th, it deflects from the Warren fiasco. Whether that is good or bad overall is still up for debate, especially in the GLBT community. Nevertheless, the special bible ties into his message of unity and as long as he keeps up that theme...and eventually shuns Warren's anti-gay message with a powerful push for equality in our country....then he'll have a large contingent of support when he is ready to take the helm officially in four weeks from now.

Our Infrastructure Continues To Crumble, Now In Maryland

Last year we saw an antiquated steam pipe kill one woman and injure many others in Midtown Manhattan, as well as the collapse of an Interstate bridge that claimed the lives of several in Minneapolis. Every single day millions of gallons of water are lost on their way from upstate NY to New York City because the aqueducts leak. How many of these events do we need to witness until we finally address our crumbling infrastructure?

Well obviously we haven't had enough, because down in Bethesda, Maryland this morning, a break in an old 33" water main caused a street to instantly turn into a raging river:

Another Damning Yet Sad Update On Hiram Monserrate

The longer that this saga is allowed to unfold, the more depressing it gets. Monserrate's story hasn't changed since yesterday, but the evidence has. Nothing helps to confirm his story, but everything points to a girlfriend that is trying to protect an abusive partner that reads right out of a social worker's handbook.

From The NY Daily News:

Hiram Monserrate's girlfriend wants prosecutors to drop assault charges against the embattled Queens pol, despite telling cops last week that he slashed her in a jealous rage, law enforcement sources said yesterday.

Karla Giraldo told cops Monserrate cut her face with a broken drinking glass after he discovered she had another man's police union card in her purse, sources said.

Monserrate, a former cop, demanded to know more about the other man and why Giraldo accepted his Patrolmen's Benevolent Association card, a perk usually given to close friends or family, sources said.

"He was jealous. It was in her purse. He didn't like her explanations, and it got nasty," a law enforcement source said.

Noticeably her stories do not match up, and all the psychological schooling says the former is most likely correct. Further, the video surveillance that the cops recovered showing Monserrate pulling Giraldo by her hair on the way to the hospital is rather debilitating to Monserrate's claims of innocence. I truly hope Giraldo does not sway prosecutors, because if he is allowed to get away with this act of violence, it is only a matter of time until he attacks next.

Newspapers In Their Last Throes

As soon as advertisers began to realize the power of online media, print journalism began a slow and steady decline. Several years into this grand internet age, retailers are increasingly putting their ads online and paying top bloggers thousands of dollars per ad, hoping to reach the hundreds of thousands that read those publications. Of course, it isn't just the big boys that are getting ad revenue, little blogs like mine are millions strong and while each does not get the readership of a newspaper, collectively the old printed papers are dwarfed by us.

Due to these changes and lost revenues for newspapers, their business model is dying and top icons are in trouble, in fact one large 150 year old Daily is about to go under next month:

EW Scripps Co., the newspaper chain which owns the Rocky Mountain News, announced earlier this month that it was putting it up for sale after losing 11 million dollars in the first nine months of the year.

Employees of the paper went online with a week ago.

"Unless we can make something happen by the middle of January, our owners could close the Rocky," they wrote on the site.

"The owners of our paper have put us up for sale and hinted at shutting us down if they can't find a buyer," they said. "We are prepared to fight that.
It is admirable to see the staff of the Rocky Mountain News fight off the demands of corporate America, but unless they see a miracle, we won't see them by February. Unless newspapers were allowed to run at a significant loss for the sake of the news and not as a for-profit business, many will succumb in the next few years. Occams Hatchet at DailyKos wrote a brilliant diary last night detailing how he "held a dying newspaper in his hands" yesterday, in reference to the shrinking size of the Los Angeles Times.

Of course, the largest of our nation's papers will find a way to stay online, but by and large many will fail. It might not be for five or ten years, but without an advertising miracle or fantastic funding fix, the end of the medium that is print journalism is coming to an end.

A New Twist On An Old Hanukkah Song

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and tonight is the third night of Hanukkah. So in this holiday time, I thought I'd add some interesting, festive music to the mix.


Unions Start To Make The Gang Of Three Pay A Price

When Diaz, Espada and Kruger bonded together to create havoc for Senate Democrats in order to further their own interests, the short term gains clouded their long term outlook. Scheming for a deal is something this politicians know very well, but threatening to caucus with Republicans when you come from a heavily Democratic district is a very dumb idea. Yet they went along with it, still haven't gained anything besides notoriety and now they are starting to pay a price.

From The Daily Politics:

This week, some 8,000 Bronx members of 32BJ will receive direct direct mail pieces targeting two of the so-called Gang of Three - Senator-elect Pedro Espada Jr. and Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. - in an effort to crank up pressure on the dissidents to come back to the Democratic fold and back Malcolm Smith for majority leader.


The mailers, which are in both English and Spanish, are part of a wider campaign by a number of labor interests that were instrumental in helping the Senate Democrats win a majority of seats this fall for the first time since 1965 and don't want to see the fruits of their labor scuttled by three renegades.

Other union members of this pro-Democrat alliance include: Unite-HERE/ New York Hotel Trades Council, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the Communications Workers of America.

Seriously, what were these three thinking? That they would just get away with throwing our brand new majority away so that they can get some plum positions and the perks that come along with it? Meh. The Senate Dems in Albany may not be perfect, but with the help of unions like 32 BJ, we're slowly making them more responsive to the progressive and pro-working family agenda we desire.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Friend Told Connell Not To Fly Before The Crash

This past Friday Michael Connell's small plane went down and crashed in Akron, Ohio, killing him instantly. The cause of the crash was supposedly due to the fact that he ran out of gas. Yet the background story and details surfacing today are showing that this could possibly be much more than a simple mistake of not putting enough fuel in the tank. His connection to Karl Rove as the so-called Bush Brain's IT guru is well known, as well as threats made on his life because he was supposedly ready to talk about what he did for Mr. Rove. Now we have more information that Connell was aware of possible sabotage.

From RawStory:

The Republican consultant accused of involvement in alleged vote-rigging in Ohio in 2004 was warned that his plane might be sabotaged before his death in a crash Friday night, according to a Cleveland CBS affiliate.[...]

Without getting into specific details, 19 Action News reporter Blake Renault reported Sunday evening that 45-year-old Republican operative and experienced pilot had been warned not to fly his plane in the days before the crash.

"Connell...was apparently told by a close friend not to fly his plane because his plane might be sabotaged," Renault said. "And twice in the last two months Connell, who is an experienced pilot, cancelled two flights because of suspicious problems with his plane."
Of course, this isn't definitive proof that Rove had something to do with Connell's death. With something as serious as the death of this man, there is no need to rush to pick up the tin foil hat but calling for a thorough investigation is certainly more than necessary in this case. If Mukasey's DOJ was warned about threats on Connell's life before the crash occurred, then we at least need to make sure every detail is examined with extreme care.

NYC Carriage Horses Forced To Work In The Sleet And Snow

If you need another reason to convince you that the horse carriage industry in New York must be banned, this is a prime example. The owners of the carriages have no regard or sympathy for their horses, as they let them out into the wintry weather and the dangerous streets created from it. And as you'll see, at least one of the drivers despises the cameraman enough to hit him with his whip.

Ruben Diaz Doesn't Understand The Word "Inclusion"

"Gang" member and State Senator Ruben Diaz of The Bronx came out and made a statement praising Barack Obama's decision to stick with homophobe Rick Warren for the invocation at the inauguration next month. He was happy to see someone that is wary of teh gay such as himself get up and stand in front of millions billions and have them as a captive audience for a few minutes. Well I am sure plenty of people love this "reaching out" to the right, but Diaz still doesn't get it.

From The Daily Politics:

"To some people, if you oppose homosexual marriage and abortion, you are not a Democrat and you are certainly not be invited to deliver an inaugural invocation."

"To those people, it does not matter how hard you fight to protect human services by creating job opportunities for your community, bringing low income housing to the poor, fighting against the closing of health services, protecting the immigrants, and opposing the Governor of the State of New York and the Mayor of the City of New York for cutting needed services when they try to balance their budgets on the backs of the poor and less fortunate families and senior citizens."

"By rejecting the call to dis-invite Reverend Warren and by welcoming him to deliver the inauguration ceremony’s invocation in Washington, DC, Barack Obama has sent a message of inclusion...that we should be welcome all the time, not only to be used when they want our votes, support and participation in coalitions to benefit others.

Diaz needs to find a dictionary, because if he is talking about inclusion, the Senator should know that in the Democratic party, we fight for civil rights for all, not just certain minorities. Now, not all Democrats have to agree with abortion and the right for everyone to be able to get married. I'm sure there are plenty out there, such as Mr. Diaz. Yet our party needs solid direction from its leaders. The ideal of equality for all is something to strive for, not to set aside so that we can pretend to be harmonious with people like Mr. Warren.

With Shifty Monserrate, It Is Time For Smith To Take A Stand

The aftermath of what happened early Friday morning between Karla Giraldo and her abusive boyfriend Hiram Monserrate is nothing short of a textbook case of domestic violence that could easily be transcribed and put on Lifetime. The facts of the case are tragic and even more so that Ms. Giraldo stopped working with investigators after she had been treated at Long Island Jewish Hospital.

At first Monserrate claimed that tripping and falling caused Ms. Giraldo to suffer a bruised eye and severely lacerated face. Now he has his friends circulating news that Giraldo had a drug problem and that he was trying to take the drugs in her purse away (despite none being found on her by police that night).

From The NY Daily News:

Sources say Monserrate backers have told people the outgoing city councilman was upset to discover drugs in girlfriend Karla Giraldo's purse after they attended the Queens Democratic Party's holiday dinner on Thursday.

"He has been making calls and saying, 'It's not what you hear; I'm innocent,'" one state Senate Democrat reported.

"The story his people are spinning now is that [Giraldo] had drugs in her purse and he tried to take them away from her and there was a struggle."

How sad is that he is now blaming the victim for all of this. While Monserrate exhibits the typical "bastard" behavior for a man that beats up women, there is another man in the picture that needs to stand up and be a leader in all of this.

The next probable Majority Leader, Malcolm Smith has so far played it safe with this news. As the article states, while Monserrate was making calls to various State Senators to proclaim his innocence, so was Smith in order to get people to not immediately castigate the Senator-Elect. That type of position is not surprising coming from Smith, but it is still far different from the man that just recently said he'd rather let the Republicans have power so that "we would rather wait to take charge of the Senate than to serve the interest of a few."

Well Smith, are you trying to serve your self-interest in taking the Majority Leader position now by making excuses for the legal interests of Mr. Monserrate?

Sunday Talk Roundup: Biden Vs Cheney

Care of the always amazing TPM. This week's theme was the battle of the incoming versus the outgoing Vice Presidents:

Mayor Gutless Should Look In The Mirror Before Lashing Out At The Council

Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg really must be ensconced in his own heavily protected bubble. It may not be as thick as George Bush's, but when you whine to the press that a minority of Councilmembers rejected his property tax increase and call them gutless, there has to be some element of delusion there. He cannot possibly imagine that some Councilmembers want to find another way to fund the budget instead of raising property taxes yet again.

From The NY Daily News:

As far as Mayor Bloomberg is concerned, the 18 no-sayers took the cowardly route, not taking responsibility for assuring essential services and workers - such as cops, firefighters and sanitation workers - are maintained.

"It's not an easy vote whether to raise taxes," the mayor said. "Those that didn't are really trying to slap the uniformed services and others .... And it's just gutless if you really want to know."

"Gutless" is rather harsh an adjective, especially coming from Mayor Bloomberg. If not gutless, a certain degree of cowardice was involved when the Mayor undemocratically swiped term limits off the books two months ago, allowing him to run again without the public's consent. Of course, that applies to at least a few of the 18, those that voted to extend term limits. They weren't only gutless, they were just as big a coward as the Mayor who perpetrated the whole thing.

Caroline Kennedy Getting Special Treatment From The NY Times

I know a lot of people here in New York and beyond would like to see Caroline Kennedy take Senator Clinton's soon-to-be-vacated seat. Perhaps because she is the daughter of the legendary JFK, her good works in education or they've been getting personalized phone calls from Uncle Ted. Whatever the reason, the more this drags on, the less I like her as a choice. I don't really keep up with much gossip, but when I heard that Caroline has an alleged extra-friendly relationship with Arthur Sulzberger it made me wonder. And then the evidence of special treatment presented itself soon thereafter.

From Gawker:

See, that stuff just isn't cool. If a paper doesn't mind reporting on these issues for other celebrities and politicians, they especially should air their dirty laundry when the guy involved just so happens to own the newspaper. And when people leave comments on your blog about it, or anything unless it is truly vulgar or offensive, then please, cut the censorship shit.

Cheney's High Moment Of The Last Eight Years

It was the death of nearly 3,000 Americans. Truly, utterly, sickening, to the core:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Will Paterson Cave Under Popular Demand To Tax The Rich?

Not even a week ago, Governor David Paterson stood strongly with his proposed budget. It would have drastically cut services, raise more than four billion in excise taxes that includes an 18% non-diet soda charge and leave the wealthiest New Yorkers relatively unscathed. After a few days of being pummeled in the press from groups on the left (and a few on the right), Paterson is rethinking the idea of the millionaire's tax thanks to the many progressive advocacy organizations' hard work.

From NY Times:

Many groups, though, want even more taxes and fewer budget cuts — to protect their members or programs or interests — and are already broadcasting commercials urging the governor to broadly tax the rich in order to avert some of his steep proposed education and health care cuts. And Mr. Paterson seems to be edging closer to acknowledging that he may have no choice but to do so.

“Taxing the wealthy is probably going to be part of the solution if the deficit gets any worse, and all indications are that it probably will,” Mr. Paterson said during a wide-ranging conversation late last week. “If the deficit starts to grow again, then we’re out of moves. I’ve cut as much as I could.”

The governor said that increasing taxes on the rich should be “the last place you want to go, because it automatically kicks in less job creation and leads to people leaving the state, but that risk could become a reality if we have further deficit problems.”
Actually, the last place you'd want to go is to penalize the poor for the problems caused primarily by a few extra greedy members of the elite. Those cuts and excise taxes hurts the economy most of all because it affects so many people that struggle to get by. Also, most jobs are created by small businesses and their wealth doesn't even come close to the executives of corporations that loved credit default swaps so much in order to increase that seven-figure Christmas bonus.

The rich, meaning those that make a million or more a year need to be paying their fair share. Not only that, perhaps we can add an excise tax to Wall Street, say a penny or two per trade? That would go much further to solving our fiscal crisis than taking away large chunks of Medicare, Medicaid and hundreds of millions that are invested in or children's education each year.