Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rachel Maddow Sheds Light On OSHA Abuses

Rachel Maddow, doing what she does best, this time with the Bush Administration's failed (and deliberative) attempt to effectively manage OSHA:

It hasn't even been four months since she started her show and has already made quite an impact on cable news.

Few Fans Left In Speaker Quinn's Original Base

Christine Quinn is at the peak of power in the New York City Council, but those at the bottom of the mountain are fuming at the woman they helped put on top. Quinn was supposed to be a progressive's progressive, not on with GLBT issues but as a fighter across the board that would take on the corporate powers in the City and advance the people's agenda. Now she's seen as the chief minion of Mayor Bloomberg and all the elitist interests he represents. The term limits debacle was the final straw for many. As we approach 2009, her original base is all but gone and hopes of a Mayoral bid, even if in 2013 (presuming she supports Bloomberg's third term) have diminshed considerably.

From Chelsea Now:

Chelsea’s enthusiasm for its Council representative, Speaker Quinn, has diminished considerably, if not morphed into anger. Her abrupt reversal on term limits to support Bloomberg’s bid for a third term, in defiance of the two-term limit established in 1993 and reconfirmed in 1996 by popular vote, has even upset her own political club, the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club. Like most city voters—89 percent of those polled by Quinnipiac University in October—Chelsea residents believe the term-limits issue should be decided in another referendum, not by a City Council vote. Speaking to the CRDC on Dec. 18, Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/New York, deplored “the about-face of our Speaker, who I have a great deal of personal regard for, and found, quite frankly, that it was shocking that she did not have the courage of her convictions to come out, in any one of the hearings, and confront the public.”

Personal regards aside, what Quinn has done as Speaker is deplorable. Whether it be the use of slush funds or pressuring Council Members in other monentary ways, she has been one of many unethical presences at City Hall and her time to go is now (or technically election day in 2009). The Mayor is much too powerful and a new face and fresh vision is needed to take on the ridiculous amount of corporatization that has gone on in our once proud Gotham. It is going to be clubs like the CRDC and others local organizations that will have to rise up and defeat people like Christine Quinn.

How Bailout Money Is Spent In NYC

The greed of major players on Wall Street is never ending. Peter Kraus spent a whopping three months at the now defunct Merrill Lynch. His bonus for being there? $25 million. Yes, that's right, though the number doesn't even cause my jaw to drop anymore, just a little lump in my soul. So what, praytell happened with all that money? Well, it got spent right here in Manhattan.

From The Real Deal:

Investment advisor Carl Spielvogel and his wife Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel sold their cooperative apartment at 720 Park Avenue, at the corner of 70th Street, for $36.63 million, nearly twice what they paid for it two years ago.

The sale of the seventh-floor unit closed December 18, according to property records posted Friday.

The buyer was identified as Jill Kraus, wife of Peter Kraus, a former executive vice president at Merrill Lynch who reportedly received a $25 million bonus after working at the firm for three months this year. However, only her name was listed on the property report. He was hired as chairman and CEO of AllianceBernstein on December 19. A Merrill Lynch spokeswoman would not comment on his pay package.
Nothing like buying a $37 million dollar Park Ave. apartment before starting another job. Maybe if he leaves before April he can get another $10 million and buy a nice pied-a-terré on Central Park West or something.

There's a line from the documentary "Corporation" that fits best here. That the ex-carpet corporation guy said one day all people like this will go to jail. The example of Peter Kraus is certainly applicable here.

Burris Gives Himself An Out For Running In 2010

Burris must know that getting into the Senate next month has odds that are slim to none. Being picked by Blagojevich immediately tainted his chances for being admitted by his potential Democratic colleagues, who've already said that a Blagojevich appointee would be rejected. Now with that reality immediately in front of Burris, a face-saving actual race for the office in 2010 may be Roland's only chance to distance himself from Gov. Blagojevich and to utilize his experience as a dedicated public servant.

Hinds Gambles On An Odd Fundraising Adventure

When I think of fundraisers for local candidates, small bars with dim lights as well as nice sit-down dinners. Going online is also highly cost-effective if done properly. Doing something at a bowling alley or a picnic in warm weather makes for good fun and doesn't stray too far out there. Even the attempt at bringing Dave Chappelle to a club for a certain Congressional candidate was exciting in theory. This one by Terry Hinds though is far out there even by my easy-going standards.

From The Daily Politics:

The event is a bus trip to the Connecticut casino Mohegan Sun. Tickets are $50 a head, which includes transporation, a $20 "free play voucher" and a $15 voucher for the all-you =can-eat buffet - all "compliments of the campaign."

(For the record, there are casinos in New York, although they do require more hours on the road to reach).

Campaign Finance Board spokesman Eric Friedman said it's unclear whether the contributions generated by this trip will be matchable.

Liz investigated the election laws and determined that it works for the city, even if the officials are still officially unsure. Even if it works out, it doesn't seem like Hinds gets much bang for his buck here. I applaud him for running in Bloomberg lackey Kendall Stewart's seat but can't he come up with something fun, but also in the city and something that generates more cash for the campaign and not some casino out in Eastern Connecticut?

Joe Scarborough Put In His Place By Brzezinski

Joe Scarborough is one of my more tolerable conservative hacks, but he is still overly misguided on how the world works. Perhaps because of his years in Congress or just loyalty to the GOP, Joe came to MSNBC to do commentary with heavily distorted glasses on. Sometimes he does alright, but others he needs to be smacked into reality by his elders.

From Crooks and Liars:

icon Download | Play icon Download | Play

I've always had a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Zbigniew Brzezinski. And after this epic smackdown of the eminently ignorant and simple-minded Joe Scarborough, I know that affection was well-placed.

Scarborough: "You cannot blame what's going on in Israel on the Bush administration."

Brzezinski: "You know, you have such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on that it's almost embarrassing to listen to you."

Who knows if Joe does any research before his shows (not counting the daily downloads of right wing talking points) but when it comes to the I/P conflict he clearly doesn't have a clue. The Bush Administration, while not the pre-eminent reason for the current mess, has done nothing positive in the last eight years in order to diffuse tensions. If anything, they made it much worse.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Holiday Greeting Sen. Diaz Deserves

Here ya go Senator:

What Do You Say About The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

It was sad news this past weekend to see tensions flare back into brutal violence on and around the Gaza Strip. A few were killed in Ashkelon and Ashdod by rockets, while hundreds were killed by airstrikes in Gaza and near other key militarily strategic sites. The first group were Israelis and the latter Palestinians, but they all live in a land no bigger than the state of New Jersey. It is so tragic to see the death and destruction in what is such a beautiful place.

Back here in America, the verbal conflict is just as bad in many progressive circles. DailyKos was a blaze with diaries sporting thousands of comments over who was worse, Israel or Hamas. The "I'm right and you're wrong mentality is set in their minds like a granite slab in Central Park.

Last night as I was walking through Union Square in NYC I saw a protest out of the corner of my eye and without seeing the signs that were waved, I knew what it was about. My girlfriend and I walked through part of the crowd and within twenty seconds two people were ready to shove informative flyers in my face to tell me how bad Israel is. "Do you know what is happening in Israel?" one asked.

Yeah, I know. I know all too well.

I know from my friends and family in and out in the diaspora of Israel what Hamas has done to Israel and the hate they teach new generations, helping them along to hate the newest generation of Jews there. I know about the suicide bombings, one of which killed my cousin's close friend. I know about the need to wave people to check for explosives when entering a densely packed store or restaurant.

I also know what the state of Israel does to Gaza and the West Bank. I know about the increasing amount of settlers when they weren't supposed to be there in the first place. I know about what happened in Jenin. I know how houses are razed. I know that those "targeted" strikes by the IAF end up killing infants. I know. I know. I know.

Yet, no one on other side is "right" nor are they "wrong" about what is going on. They feel the way they feel. As long as their passionate views are kept boiling on the stove fueled by ignorance and blind hatred, nothing will change.

I will not take a side here, even though some of my family may call me a supporter of terrorists. I will not even if others accuse me of ignoring the domination of Israel over the Palestinians. What they don't get is that taking sides only keeps the hate and the war going. If Israelis stopped settling Palestinian land, if Hamas-run schools stopped preaching hate, if Israel would allow commerce to happen with their immediate neighbor, if Hamas stopped firing rockets into different things would be.

As John Lennon once said, "War is over if you want it." That applies to Israel as it does all over the world.

Gov.Paterson Comes Back To The Netroots Yet Again

David Paterson is having some serious trouble with his budget. He is trying to overcome a monumental task, that is a budget deficit of (allegedly) more than $50 billion over four years. States must balance their books, but the way they go about it is where it counts. Paterson has decided that the best way to is to cut services for those most in need and to tax them disproportionally on goods that they spend their small, individual budgets on. No one likes what he has to offer and he is trying his best to get a coalition together, even by attempting to utilize the "far left."

From The Albany Project:

I wanted to come here to The Albany Project and share a diary I have posted on Daily Kos. It's about the budget and the discussion that has taken place here at TAP and on Daily Kos.

As I outlined in the letter that is featured in a diary below this one, we are facing very difficult times here in New York and we are looking at all options to get the economy back on track. I, along with the Governors of other states, have requested specific actions that the new administration could take to help our states while helping the national economy as well.

I have asked for an open conversation and that has indeed happened. The budget process has just begun, and I want to keep the dialogue open so that together we can find solutions to this grave situation.

Click the link above to see more of what he has to say.

Nothing in there though has anything to do with making the wealthy pay their fare share and having the burden spread equally across the Empire State. He claims to know from his experience in Harlem and as a State Senator that it is hard to see the budget cuts and targeted (to the middle class save for a few luxury fees) taxes while the rich get off easily.

Paterson now says that he wants to wait to tax the wealthy at a later date, that, "...there is ample time for everyone in New York to pitch in to help close these deficits." Yeah, right Governor. Perhaps when the rest of us are left on the streets and the rich are just as well off as they were when this whole thing started. David Sirota says it best, the wealthy continue to dodge the taxman because they fearmonger the politicians and the public with threats of lost jobs, despite that the facts tell a different story. Paterson should know better and you know what, he probably does.

The question is then, why is choosing to play ignorant when the welfare of so many New Yorkers' livelihoods are in the balance?

WTF? Blagojevich Picks A Senator Anyway

Well, it was supposed to be a slow news day, and then Rod Blagojevich went and did this:

Cheney Exits, Just As Delusional As He Came In

Dick Cheney's interview with his hometown paper yesterday was a sad testament for those in power who are clearly intoxicated from it. Mr. Cheney has been in Washington and out of Wyoming for many years and has clearly added to the corrosiveness of American politics that we all unfortunately know too well. Cheney is one of the most unpopular elected officials of all time, yet he seems not to care, nor even knows why.

From RawStory:

Vice President Dick Cheney, during an interview with the Casper Star-Tribune in his home state of Wyoming, defended his decisions during his two terms and dismissed the low poll numbers that have followed his administration with the continued occupation of Iraq and the tanking economy. He told his interviewer that a politician can't change his policy every time a new poll comes out.

"My experience has been over the years that if you govern based upon poll numbers, upon trying to improve your overall poll ratings, people I’ve encountered who do that are people who won’t make tough decisions," he said. "And the job the president has and those who advise him is to make those basic fundamental decisions for the nation that nobody else is authorized or able to make."

"My own experience has been," he added, "in the administrations I've served in, for example Gerald Ford, a man who made a very, very tough decision when he decided to pardon Nixon, something that was extremely unpopular, universally condemned, but 30 years later he was praised as having done the right thing. So I think you need to have that kind of approach to it rather than watch the polls on any given day."

"I think the facts are that we were faced with a unique set of circumstances in the aftermath of 9/11," he continued, "and we had to make some very tough decisions that not everybody agreed with. But I think they were the right decisions, especially in terms of defending the homeland.
There is nothing wrong with making decisions that go against the grain, leaders do do that from time to time. Yet they still lead with the consent of the governed and Cheney has made it consistently clear he has no regard for the citizens of this country. He proved it from the start of the Administration when he had secret policy meetings with big corporations and excluded advocacy groups, he proved it when he helped send soldiers to war where he literally profited as a beneficiary of Halliburton activities and he proved it when he promoted and condoned torture.

Cheney's list of impeachable and lesser offenses goes on and on, but one thing that remains the same is the size of the deluded bubble that he rode into the Naval Observatory on.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ruben "I'm A Dem" Diaz Tries To Defend His Selfishness

Former/current Gang of Three member Senator Ruben Diaz must be feeling the heat from his district. For nearly two months he has subverted the new Democratic majority to achieve his own ends. Preventing gays from getting married and enjoying equal civil rights are among his priorities and in the means, he had threatened the power of his own party in the State Senate. Once the blogs, unions and his own constituents started going after him, he has decided to fight back.

From NY Politicker:

State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. sent out this open letter in response to a campaign by labor groups to try to bring him in line behind State Senator Malcolm Smith.[...]

"I have always been a Democrat. I am still a Democrat. And I will always be a Democrat," Diaz wrote in the two-page letter to constituents.

He said it was being released "in response to the negative campaign some special interests have begun in my community."

If he didn't think the efforts by NY Democrats, WFP and others was serious, Diaz wouldn't have put out this "I'm still a Democrat" response. He knows that his actions with Kruger and Espada have been detrimental to the party and the Senate. If the voters in the district fully realized what a threat he was, they would have kicked him to the curb in the primaries. Now he's doing damage control while still holding on to his anti-civil rights stance for the GLBT community.

We'll see if it works.

TPM's Sunday Talk Roundup

Because sometimes, you can lose yourself in the chatter of the Sunday pundits. Of course, this Sunday it was all about the I/P conflict:

Quinn Still Rewarding Her Obedient Council Members

Speaker Christine Quinn purportedly stopped doling out slush fund money earlier in the year, but that doesn't mean there aren't other funds she can tap. A woman that started off as a good progressive a few years ago, Quinn has become part of the problem at City Hall and with Bloomberg at her side she's gotten even worse. The latest revelation of political favoritism is sadly unsurprising.

From The NY Post:

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has quietly been rewarding her political allies by allowing a handful of loyal lawmakers to bolster their legislative staffs with funding from her own budget, The Post has learned.[..]

Every member of the council has an equal budget of $277,300 a year, with committee chairs getting an additional $40,000, to pay staff and manage an office.

But since she became speaker in 2006, Quinn has given 18 additional staffers to 14 council members including one to her own district office - from the central budget, for reasons her staff would not explain to The Post.

It isn't hard to deduce that having more staff makes things easier for the Council Members getting them. Whether the staffers work on legislation or do extra constituent service, it is a boon to any CMs that receive the extra salary expense. Quinn's explanation for it though, is far from satisfactory.

Quinn's spokeswoman, Maria Alvarado, said, "Ultimately, all staff members work for the institution of the City Council, as directed by the speaker. At times, central staff has been assigned to work with certain council members or on a legislative committee."

Alvarado can B.S. us all she wants, but anyone with at least an ounce of common sense can see through that weak excuse. Even though her predecessor engaged in the same activity, that does not make it right. New Yorkers deserve more, but Quinn's record shows she isn't willing to run an honest City Council.

So Much For Prosecuting Those That Hire Illegals

Immigrants have gotten a bad rap here in America since the first Spaniard came to conquer the land that was cared for by natives for thousands of years. Once the Europeans had established themselves as the preeminent power on the continent however, they hated each and every new immigrant group that came to make a better life. Now in 2008 the targets are those that come up from the south in search of work.

Immigrant haters have cried for quite a while that they take the jobs of those born here and sap local resources. Despite the fact that even undocumented workers have Tax IDs and contribute heartily to their new environs by helping bring prices down in the sectors they participate in, the protests never stop. Of course, they could have gone after the employers that looked the other way, but anti-immigrant groups rarely go that route. Except for Arizona that is, let's see how they did with their new laws, shall we?

From The AZ Republic:

When the state's employer-sanctions law took effect nearly a year ago, it threatened to shut down businesses that hired illegal workers.

But not a single employer has been taken to court in Arizona, mainly because the landmark law is too difficult to enforce, authorities say.

In Maricopa County, where the law led to raids on a dozen businesses and the arrest of 159 workers and a manager, investigators have not been able to assemble enough evidence showing that employers actually knew the arrested workers were illegal, which the sanctions law requires.
Authorities can easily go after the workers, but still have not done enough legwork to penalize those that provide the opportunity to work. Of course, this isn't really much of a surprise because, well, critics say that the mere presence of the law is enough to scare people from coming to Arizona to work. If anti-immigrant groups believe that....well, it just goes to show they live with their ass in the air and their head in the ground.

2008 According To Jib Jab

Oh yeah, what a mess:

At least we have someone going to the White House that actually wants to clean it up and not add more to the pile.

Obama's Stimulus Sounds Good For The MTA

Word is that when the legislative session gets going, a massive amount of money is going to spread from Washington to kick-start infrastructure programs and get people to work. Of course, with powerful leaders like Schumer, we are sure to get a sizable amount for New York City. What people like him are talking about sounds fantastic.

From The NY Daily News:

President-elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan may get New York an extra station for the extended No. 7 train line, upgraded subway stations and 1,500 new hybrid buses, Sen. Chuck Schumer said yesterday.

Though details of the massive package Obama wants to sign in his first days in office are still being worked out, Schumer said he expects about $4 billion for mass transit in New York.

That's enough to create 180,000 jobs and leave the city with lasting improvements to its subway, bus and commuter rail systems.

Four billion is a lot of cash, and so is five for Medicare and closing our state budget gap. Though with all this money coming in, I wonder how much of it will actually go to where it is meant for. Medicare needs to be fixed, not just thrown a few billion. The M.T.A. is almost as much a mess as NY's Medicare system. New buses and clean subway stations sound great, but the Authority has a way of moving around cash and not getting much done once it's gone. Especially with the passage of the draconian budget for next year (service cuts and fare hikes) the stimulus needs to be guarded with extreme care and put to maximum usage.