Saturday, January 24, 2009

On Liam Neeson And NYC Carriage Horses

Like many animal lovers that watched the Daily Show on Thursday night, I was appalled at what Liam Neeson had to say about the horse carriage industry. For someone that owns horses, he is clearly not a friend of the four-legged creatures, especially for the poor souls that parade tourists around Midtown and Central Park. One comment in particular, about him moving into the Central Park Stables, had PETA thinking that Neeson was kicked in the head by one of his own horses. Especially when you look at where Liam lives, and the conditions of the stables he's talking about.

From PETA:

Horses who are forced to pull carriages endure terrible living conditions like these. Sounds like home sweet home to Neeson, though!

Liam's posh 6,000 square foot estate that he would apparently prefer to give up to live in the stables
Liam Neeson's house

When Jon Stewart questioned whether the horses would prefer to be free, Liam said, "Everyone thinks cows in the fields would rather be running wild … that's bullsh** … horses don't either."

Oh, Liam, maybe you're right, let me ponder this for a moment … It does seem like horses would prefer to endure the freezing cold and the panicky booms, noisy traffic, and exhaust fumes of the city over living in a lush pasture. And you're right, they probably much prefer the whips, shouting, heavy gear, traces, and lack of water in the troughs as well as the long shifts trudging for hours and pulling strangers in a half-mile circle all day without rest over living a natural life. Makes sense, right?

Jon stood firm, though, and came to the support of horses, adding, "I don't think living on 52nd and 11th is a holiday for a horse."

Why Liam is such an avid supporter of the cruel horse carriage industry in NYC, I can't imagine. If he's really seen the conditions the horses endure, and still carries on like this, well, Liam must be one sick individual.

Now I know that this is from PETA and they can be a bit over-reactive from time to time. Yet the conditions of what horses in NYC endure does not rest on PETA alone. These horses have been killed in traffic, are put to work in nasty, cold snowy weather and made to work incessantly throughout the day. There is a better approach to getting a tour of the park, such as riding a bike, or a pedicab if don't want to peddle. I understand back in the 19th century and before the use of horses in cities, but nowadays with cars and mass transit available, there is no need for them to be in such a chaotic environment. Don't believe me though, there are plenty of sources to check out just on YouTube.

GOP Still Hearts George Bush

As long as the GOP keeps talking about #43 in such a gushing manner and believe in what he believed (unitary executive, destroying the Bill of Rights, etc), then they'll keep losing elections. More of the old fearmongering rhetoric will only get them one thing, more humiliating election cycles like 06' and 08'.

Espada's Priorities Do Not Lay With His Constituents

Out of the sixty-two State Senators New York has, Pedro Espada is definitely high on my list of those that are the worst amongst them. Whether it be his traitorous behavior, disregard of campaign finance laws or just overall douchebaggery, Espada is a politician of the lowest order. Sure, there are plenty of other bad ones out there, but at least they know what comes first before anything, that is, constituent service. Even the brand new Senators get that, except for two.

From The West Bronx News:

Two senators, however, even deep into January, have yet to follow suit. One is Roy J. McDonald (Republican - Rensselaer/Saratoga); the other, the Bronx's Pedro Espada Jr., whose focus has likely been elsewhere in recent weeks (here and here).

According to staff at Espada's Soundview Health Center, a district office is in the works but it won't open until next month. In the meantime, residents in need of assistance can call the health center at (718) 378-1465, or the senator's Albany office at (518) 455-3395.

[Update, 4:40 p.m. Espada says he's currently looking at office space in the newly renovated Sears Building on Fordham Road, but that nothing's been finalized.]
Perhaps McDonald just thought that the largesse left in the wake of Joe Bruno would suffice. Espada and McDonald should know better, and now at the beginning of their terms, they're both failing the people that elected them. It's great that they're working on it now, yet things like this should have been taken care of by late November. This job is supposed to be about public service...but I doubt Pedro doesn't even know what that term means.

Friday, January 23, 2009

South Carolina School Denies Child's Right To Wear An Obama Shirt

In another troubling episode for Barack Obama fans (as in 77% of the country) a school district in South Carolina told a child and his mother not to wear a t-shirt with Barack Obama on it. Here we are in 2009, and we still have self-important educators school administrators pretending to be fair and balanced with a dress code when this is clearly not as simple as an offensive article of clothing.

From WIS10:

SUMTER, SC (WIS) - A Midlands parent called us about a shirt with President Barack Obama on it, that she says her child was not allowed to wear to his public elementary school.

"He's our first black President of the United States," says fifth-grader Elijah Smith. "It makes me real proud."
It makes a lot of people proud, but apparently, not Principal Liz Compton and Superintendent Frank Baker:

"I did speak with Mrs. Compton, and she did state that it would not be a good idea for Elijah to wear the shirt," says Byrd. "I proceeded to ask her why, and she said that she didn't want to cause any conflict. What she really meant by that in details I'm not sure, but she was very vague with her answer."

Out of respect, Elijah did not wear the shirt.

Later that day, Venetia called Sumter's Two School District Superintendent Frank Baker.

"What Mr. Baker stated to me was that he would not have a problem with Elijah wearing the Obama sweatshirt after Mr. Obama was sworn in," says Byrd. "I felt offended."
Offended isn't the only word I'm thinking about here. Comparing the name and image of our President, whether President-Elect or President, to a gang or other dangerous symbol or what not is ludicrous. People like Baker may think they're so smart by using the 'gang colors' defense of their subtle racism, but it fools no one.

And why is that so many of these anti-Obama stories come out of the south? Oh yeah, nevermind.

Congressman King (R-IA) Displays His Wingnut Cred

Congressman Steve King of Iowa shows that he will do and say anything to fearmonger and trick his constituents and any listeners of the Gallagher show. If he thinks that closing down Guantanamo Bay would give Khalid Sheik Mohammed a path to citizenship is going to fly with the American people, King might want to check out all the polls that show a large majority wants that torture-condoning symbol of American imperalism off the map. King can talk all the right-wing nonsense he wants, but that behavior is exactly what is putting his party into a position of political irrelevancy save for parts of the South.

The Senate Does Good For Lilly Ledbetter

The Democratic Senate is far from perfect, but when good deeds are done, they should be recognized. The latest happened last night, when the now-even-stronger Democratic majority was able to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Ms. Ledbetter stood up for what was right when she found she was discriminated against because of her gender. Yet justice for her has been blocked by Republicans who claim that legislation to protect Lilly would bring "frivolous lawsuits." Where last year Democrats failed, this year they are succeeding.

From The Washington Post:

The measure, approved 61 to 36, would overturn a Supreme Court decision to make it easier for women to sue employers for pay inequity, regardless of when the discrepancies took place. It may become the first legislation signed by President Obama, who campaigned in favor of it.

The bill, dubbed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, was introduced after a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 rejected a $360,000 award in back pay to Lilly Ledbetter, an Alabama woman who worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber. Ledbetter had discovered a large gap between her salary and that of her male colleagues, stretching back years.

The discrepancy cost her lost wages and also lowered her retirement earnings because her Social Security and 401(k) contributions were based on her salary. But the court ruled that Ledbetter's case was not allowed under the 1964 Civil Rights Act because the statute of limitations on claims was 180 days after the alleged discrimination took place.

All sixteen women Senators voted for it, including five Republicans as you can see in the breakdown of the vote. Now it is on to the House and quite possibly the first piece of legislation that President Obama signs into law.

There is so much damage to be cleaned up after Bush...making employers treat men and women equally is a damn good start.

Finally, Joe Bruno Indicted For Corruption!

After years of meticulously investigating the now-former Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, Joe Bruno has been indicted on eight counts of public corruption. It has been a long time coming for this day, but despite many denials from Mr. Bruno of wrongdoing, his time in court is soon at hand.

From The Times-Union:

ALBANY - A federal grand jury today indicted former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno on felony charges alleging he used his position to extract $3.2 million in private consulting fees from clients who sought to purchase his influence.

An 8-count indictment handed up today charges the 79-year-old Republican with corruption charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Bruno pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Albany and released without bail.

Bruno had spending thousands on lawyers in the last month, so he probably knew this was coming. Whether he knows shame from this, I sincerely doubt it. However, it is a great day for those of us that wish to clean up the filth in Albany and across our state. Bruno may have resigned his position last year, but it does not absolve him of the crimes he will be tried for. Further, I hope it serves as a warning to all current and future legislators that there is a price to be paid when you take the trust of the electorate and spit in their faces in the name of tainted influence and greed.

Of course, the possibility of him serving 20 years is probably nil. Forfeiting his assets and spending a few months or years behind bars is a little more likely.

Where Does The Progressive Grassroots Go From Here?

David Plouffe and Mitch Stewart have some ideas, and new program, Organizing for America, so that we, the "little people," can still have a big impact during the Obama Administration. It isn't just about getting one man elected, it is about changing our country in this new century so that the people are put first before corporations.

Obama Signals A New Way Between Israel And Gaza

The cease-fire is holding thus far between Israel and Gaza, but for how long can it last? Certainly not much if things remain the way they are. Thankfully, with Bush gone and Obama as President, the United States will do things differently, at least that is the new plan. For eight years, we have made empty promises of helping the region find peace, yet doing nothing for it. While Gaza remains closed off to the world, it will forever breed the endless cycle of violence between the people there and the Israelis outside. If Barack Obama has his way, we just might be able to break the cycle.

From The Financial Times:

“The outline for a durable ceasefire is clear: Hamas must end its rocket fire: Israel will complete the withdrawal of its forces from Gaza: the US and our partners will support a credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime, so that Hamas cannot re-arm,” the US president said.

“As part of a lasting ceasefire, Gaza’s border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority participating.”

It may not be a panacea to the problems over there, but it is certainly a start. Simply giving arms and aid is not enough. You can not simply throw money and the might of the military-industrial complex and think that high-tech bloodshed will solve anything. Decades have passed and by the looks of the latest mini-war, we obviously had not learned the lesson shown to us over and over again. Both sides must now try something different. Perhaps it can be Obama's plan that will be a new beginning.

A Bailout For The MTA

The dire news from the MTA in the last few months has been nothing short of frightening for straphangers. Not only would we have to pay more for a fare, but we'd get less for it. Less service, more nastiness in subway stations, less money in our pockets and more aggravation when waiting for packed subway cars. Well, if Albany lawmakers follow through with their current sentiments, a large chunk of that money will coming out of a payroll tax instead of our checkbooks.

From The NY Daily News:

Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, who previously opposed imposing new taxes, said Democrats would support the proposed tax if the business community agrees to it.

"It's really the last thing we want to take a look at, however, this is a classic example, I think, of shared sacrifice," Smith said Thursday.

The tax of one-third of 1% is a key component of the financial bailout plan crafted by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch. It would affect payrolls in New York City and the other counties the MTA serves.

Smith noted that most business groups, including the Partnership for New York City, have expressed support for the tax. Ravitch's plan, which has the support of Gov. Paterson, is intended to plug the MTA's $1.2 billion budget gap and head off draconian fare hikes and service cuts.

Even business groups have to realize that at these times, if they want to keep their workers happy, or at least complacent, they have to be able to commute to work without much of their wages going to their subway fare. A 0.33% payroll tax is a lot less of a burden to a business than $22 a month more (for the 30-Day Metrocard) to someone just trying to get by.

I know bailouts have gotten overplayed in the last couple of months, but this one that is sorely needed.

Rachel Maddow Goes Over Obama's Second Day

Just like the first day....oh, what a day it was:

NY Unemployment Outpaces The Nation

It is only by two-tenths of a percent, but New York's unemployment numbers were broken down and found to be higher than the national average (U3 numbers that is). I guess it isn't too surprising, especially with that infamous street downtown that's been hemorrhaging jobs but still full of greed. Like all previous news on NY's economy since September, it's just bad out there.

From The Gothamist:

Guess NY State will be borrowing unemployment funds for a while: New York City's unemployment rate rose to 7.4% in December, up from 6.3% in November. According to Crain's, this is the highest in almost five years and it's over the national unemployment rate, which is 7.2%. The NY State unemployment rate grew from 6% to 7% in December, with the state losing 49,300 jobs last month in December. The NY State Labor Department said, "In just the last three months, the state has lost more than 100,000 private sector jobs, including 49,300 in December 2008. This is the steepest one-month drop since October 2001 in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks." Another NYC stat from the NYS Labor Dept.: "Since December 2007, the number of nonfarm jobs has decreased by 53,600, or 1.4 percent, and the number of private sector jobs has decreased by 49,100, or 1.5 percent."
And what makes all those big numbers worse is how we've handled the crisis so far. Thanks to Congress' unwillingness to put strings attached to the TARP money, Bushies allowed $4 billion of it to be paid out as bonuses to Merrill Lynch execs before Bank of America bought them out. That is four billion dollars gone to those that do not need it, four billion that could have helped families with nothing, or gone into this state right here with a $15 billion dollar budget gap. So many good uses are gone because the wealthy financial sector was able to feed their greed with money meant to help restart the economy.

I know President Obama has been making a lot of changes so far, but I hope this dynamic between the rich and poor gets metted out sooner than later.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not Congresswoman Gillibrand, But Senator Gillibrand

So much for waiting till Saturday, or even Friday for that matter. Sources are confirming that Congresswoman Kristen Gillibrand will be appointed to fill the Junior Senator position for New York. She had been a top choice of the Governor lately and in the running for quite some time. The Empire State will now have a Senator from both upstate and downstate, unless you considered Chappaqua upstate.

From WPIX:

PIX NEWS is being told that Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand is the reported choice of Governor David Paterson to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. Two Congressional sources say members of the New York delegation have been invited to join Governor Paterson for the announcement in Albany at noon tomorrow.

Two members of that delegation, agreeing to speak without attribution, confirmed to reporter Marvin Scott that the Governor has telephoned New York's Democratic members of Congress for their views after Caroline Kennedy withdrew herself from consideration. One of the contenders, longterm Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney canceled a scheduled appearance on "PIX News Closeup" tomorrow because of a "conflict," which she did not disclose. She too will be in Albany. According to the sources, Gillibrand, now in her second congressional term, was favored by Secretary of State Clinton herself. Paterson has been under pressure to select a woman.
Now this second-term upstate and not-so-liberal Democratic Congresswoman will be representing all of New York. It does not matter that she is a woman, nor that her current district stretches north of Albany. What matters is...will she represent all of New York. Many on the left are worried about her positions on gun rights and whatnot. Yet from what the initial research shows, meaning a quick look at Progressive Punch, is not that shabby, with an 87.56 score. Sure, 165 members do better than her there, but she is still coming from an upstate NY district, one that was held by John Sweeney, yes, that John Sweeney.

Of course, this doesn't change my view that Paterson should have gone with a caretaker. And due to that bad decision, his appointee is already looking at primary challenges, even before being formally announced as the newest Senator. So if Gillibrand continues to be a blue dog in the Senate, as my Senator, she can rest assure that I will help in anyway possible to put a better Democrat in that seat next year.

Howard Dean At The DNC Winter Meeting

Thank you Howard for your four years of service at the DNC, the wonders you've helped foster in Washington have been some of the best for our party in a long, long time. You will definitely be missed.

When It Comes To Racism, We Still Have A Long Way To Go

While Rush Limbaugh leads his rabid wingnut followers further down the dark path into political obscurity, we here in reality still have to confront the horrors of racism. Tuesday was a great day for the country, to see an African American sworn in as our President is truly incredible. Yet not all is well and Obama is but a step on the right path. Just ask Pam Graf, who had her house burned down while traveling to Washington, because she was an Obama supporter.


CUMMING - In the unseasonable cold of a clear January morning, Forsyth County mother of three and ardent Barack Obama supporter Pam Graf was sifting through the charred, hellish remains of what was once her home on Lanier Drive.

Graf's home had been burned to the ground. No one was in the home at the time of the blaze. Graf said her three children had been sent to stay with their father while she driving to attend the presidential inauguration.
Could it have just been an innocent fire, caused by faulty electrical system or a carelessly left candle?

Graf's home burned down early Jan. 18 in what authorities are calling a "suspicious fire." Most shocking to Graf, and to some of the citizens of the county, state and nation at large, was graffiti the apparent arsonist left on scene.

Spray painted on the fence around the home it said, "Beware [expletive deleted] your black boy will die."
Rush Limbaugh said to Sean Hannity this week (see link above) that, "You know racism in this country is the exclusive province of the left." No Rush, it belongs to all of us, to those that burn down houses, to those that fight it, to those that don't...and to those that try to deny it.

Congress Trades Mass Transit Investment For Tax Cuts

Harry Reid was right when he claimed that lobbyists are people too, but the intentions of some may differ from what the country needs at the moment. Over in the House chamber, the effects of K Street can be seen in the tweaks made to the upcoming economic stimulus, valued at around $850 billion dollars. The additional tax cuts tucked in there aren't just being tacked on, they're taking away funds from the budget to repair our nation's infrastructure, especially mass transit. The chair of the House transportation panel, Jim Oberstar (D-MN) has the goods on what happened.

From TPM:

That is why we set forth this $85-billion initiative from our committee. It's been reduced in the final going. We expect that it'll come out somewhere around $63 billion, but $30 billion for highways.

The reason for the reduction in overall funding -- we took money out of Amtrak and out of aviation; we took money out of the Corps of Engineers, reduced the water infrastructure program, the drinking water and the wastewater treatment facilities and sewer lines, reduced that from $14 billion to roughly $9 billion -- was the tax cut initiative that had to be paid for in some way by keeping the entire package in the range of $850 billion.

But I'll say that our portion is the one that really creates the jobs. Our portion of it is the one that's going to put people to work because unlike anything else, these jobs can't be outsourced to Bangalore, India.

The money is coming out of all the wrong places and you can thank the House leadership for that. Kudos to Oberstar for saying something to someone about the matter, but this cannot be the end of the story. We desperately need investment in our nation's infrastructure, far more than just another tax cut. The dividends a job pays is so much more than what too many lobbyists in D.C. are advocating for.

Obama Publicly And Officially Signs The Order To Close Guantanamo

To those that oppose torture, remember that elections have consequences...and here is one o them:

NY Struggles To Help The Unemployed, Borrowing From Feds To Keep Going

Unless you're living in a cave (or an ivory tower) it is hard to escape knowing how bad things are in these times. The economy is suffering like no other, thanks to the greed and mismanagement of those in the elite, coupled with the outrageous lending practices that they encouraged among everyone else.

Here in New York, like all the other states of our union, Americans are joining the ranks of the unemployed at an alarming rate. The latest numbers showed a U3 rate above 7%, while the combined rate of the underemployed is way above 13%. The government only pays benefits to laid off workers for six months (and for some in these times, nearly a year) but the addition of so many pink-slip laden workers has overwhelmed New York.

From The NY Times:

New York State’s unemployment insurance system, besieged by claims from laid-off workers, ran out of money on the first business day of the year and is borrowing daily from the federal government to bridge a fast-growing and potentially huge deficit, state labor officials say.

Despite paying lower benefits to its jobless residents than other Northeastern states, the state’s unemployment fund has been borrowing about $90 million a week from the federal unemployment trust fund, state officials said. The deficit has already reached $212 million and is expected to exceed $2.5 billion by the end of 2010, they said.

State officials say that the deficit does not threaten the continued payment of benefits.

But the loans could wind up costing the state’s unemployment fund more than $100 million in interest and could result in a punitive tax on all employers across the state two years from now, state officials and experts on the unemployment insurance system said.

Not only are times troubling for those out of work, but the state's system to handle the problem as well. Legislators should see this failure as an opportunity to rebuild a process that will stand up to the challenges we face. For too long the burden of maintaining our society has been slowly shifted onto the middle class. While we all must share in getting through these times, it is only fair that the wealthy among us do the same. If we are to have corporate welfare, there must at least be an equal amount of welfare for the rest of us, or else, eventually something will have to give.

David Paterson, This Is Your Chance To Do Something Good

As of early this morning it was made official that Caroline no longer wants to participate in the game of Senatorial appointments (probably because she fears she might lose and shame on her for using her Uncle's health as an excuse). That means that Governor Paterson has one less New Yorker to pick from the trough of those wishing to join the Senate. Further, he only has two days by his word, to make his decision. Instead of going the route of Illinois and Colorado, Paterson still has the time to do the honorable thing by choosing a caretaker.

Lord knows that the state of New York politics is sorely lacking in the honor department. By letting the people decide their next Senator in 2010, we would gain a few points, perhaps even besting out Illinois in that regard.

The idea has been floated during this sordid saga and while Paterson has brushed them aside before, no one would fault him in changing his mind right now. Unless he wants to remain a loser, this is the opportune time to make a change and for the better. He doesn't have to go with a controversial celebrity like Bill Clinton, nor does it have to be a political name like Mario Cuomo. We just need someone that will represent New York for two years and in the meantime, let the others battling it out in the press take their fight to the public, the people who should be doing the "appointing" in the first place.

Obama's Oath Of Office, Take Two

Just to make sure, President Barack Obama took the oath again in the White House last night:

Obama Breaks Online Records

Barack Obama has already broken through so many barriers, you could write a book on them. The inauguration two days ago in and of itself would be a chapter. Upwards of two million people showed up, millions more watched on television, polls show that six in ten watched him being sworn in and the enthusiasm was overwhelming. It wasn't rowdy like Andrew Jackson's 1829 ceremony, but much more positive (and definitely a lot less cronyism). Anyways, there was another record broken on Tuesday that wasn't noticed by the live crowd or the TV audience.

From The NY Times:

Internet traffic in the United States hit a record peak at the start of President Obama’s speech as people watched, read about and commented on the inauguration, according to Bill Woodcock, the research director at the Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit organization that analyzes online traffic. The figures surpassed even the high figures on the day President Obama was elected.

“The peak is the highest measured to date, and it appears to be mostly a U.S. phenomenon,” Mr. Woodcock said, adding that it did not appear that global records would be set.[...]

Data from captured the uniqueness of the online surge. CNN said it provided more than 21.3 million video streams over a nine-hour span up to midafternoon. That blew past the 5.3 million streams provided during all of Election Day. At its peak, fed 1.3 million live streams simultaneously, according to Jennifer Martin, a spokeswoman for the site.
Damn, he even broke his own record from early November, not bad Mr. President!

Now as the article highlights, there was still plenty of problems with the web stream for many viewers. I myself saw a few frozen images during the ceremony but overall it came through pretty well. Considering the amount of traffic and the fact that streams would fail in the last couple years with a fraction of users, things are getting much better for this technology.

Quinn's Corruption: It's In The Legislation

To get things done in any legislature, you have to be able to accommodate, compromise and in the end, try to stay true to your principles above all. It may sound a little idealistic, but it is the exact opposite of what goes on Christine Quinn's City Council. The Speaker not only utilizes slush funds for her wheeling and dealing, but punishes Members that disagree with her. How so you ask? Well, it's in the bills for one.

From The Gothamist:

Is Speaker Christine Quinn guilty of cronyism when it comes to moving legislation through City Council? Since 2002, Quinn has seen 35 of her bills get passed, second only to her closest ally David Weprin (he's had 78 bills passed). Meanwhile, foes Charles Barron and Tony Avella have only seen four bills total passed over the same period of time. That sharp contrast led Councilman Avella to tell the News, "The speaker is very vindictive, and when you oppose the speaker, she doesn't let bills go through." But other members defend the Quinn's methods as rewarding persistence, pointing out legislation most often comes from committee chairs, whom she's appointed. Weprin heads the Finance Committee, which leads to a number of procedural budgetary legislation, and Quinn herself headed the Health Committee before coming Speaker. Former Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. said to the paper, "Every speaker is accused of playing favorites when it comes to bills."
Vallone Sr. and her other supporters can spin all they want for Quinn, but facts are facts. Perhaps Vallone was accused of favoritism because he engaged in the same slush fund activity that Quinn did. So why wouldn't he try and do some damage control here? Now politics isn't the only aspect of whether a bill passes or not, but in NYC, it surely does help to have Quinn's wind in the sails of your legislation.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Caroline Drops Out...Not! Oh Wait, Now Its For Real

Well how about this:

Now Paterson will have a new landscape to work with in the next couple of days, who he'll choose, well, we shall see, he doesn't like making the people's business...the people's business until he says so.

And a quick update...she's still in, oy, what a mess this all is.

And this Thursday morning, I hear she is officially out. What a mess she's created for NY!

Coleman Continues His Senatorial Charade

Ex-Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota is still firmly in denial following his narrow loss to challenger Al Franken. Franken was certified the winner by 225 votes, but that isn't stopping the tainted Mr. Coleman from going repeatedly into court for legal action he swore off immediately following the election. Today he acted as if and went to meet with former colleagues in the Senate's GOP caucus.

From The Huffington Post:

Former Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota is on Capitol Hill today meeting with his erstwhile colleagues.

"I'm hopeful I'll be back here," said Coleman as he entered the Senate's LBJ room for a lunch meeting with the Republican conference.[...]

Coleman will be spending the day, he said, doing one-on-one interviews with Washington-based reporters to update them on the situation in Minnesota.

Coleman wouldn't say how much longer the court battle will continue. "We'll see how that plays out," he said. "I hope it's quick."

It could be much quicker if Coleman drops this futile bid and makes a concession to soon-to-be Senator Franken. The permissable absentee ballots were counted and he lost. Whether it is by 225 or 225,000, we do have a winner here, and it is not Norm.

Dems Abandon 50 State Strategy

There are many Democratic leaders in D.C. who are infamously known for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They believe in a strong (meaning themselves) centralized apparatus that directs everything from Washington because they think they know best. Meanwhile, the state and local leaderships are diminished and so is their expertise of the area. This type of strategy has doomed the party for decades, that is, until the emergence of Howard Dean and the fifty-state strategy.

Governor Dean knew that decentralization was the key and reached out to every corner of the country, regardless of how many more Republicans there were. He was all about party building and because of his (and many others) hard work it came true. We now have large majorities in Congress and a Democratic President in the White House. So why is it that D.C. Dems believe they have to replace a plan that is far from broken?

From OpenLeft:

In short, the DNC will be moving away from the long-term, decentralized, fifty-state strategy of Howard Dean's tenure, and toward serving as a short-term, centralized re-election effort for President Obama in 2012. It will continue the move away from paid media ushered in by Howard Dean, maintain or increase the amount of resource expenditures in most states, and the number of states it targets will be a broader effort than the narrow focus we saw in 2001-2004 (but more narrow than 2005-2008). However, it will return to the traditional role of the DNC as a supplement for the sitting President's re-election campaign, rather than as the long-term, localized institution building operation that is was from 2005-2008.
The fifty-state strategy of 2005-2008 is going to be replaced with the "re-elect President Obama" strategy of 2009-2012.
Not too smart DNC.

The re-election of Barack Obama is incredibly important in a few years time, but the over-riding goal should be to elect more Democrats, and to let those of us in different spots of the party tent see who wins primary contests. Staying away from states like Utah and Idaho is just plain stupid when you are working for the future of the party. Why would anyone want to stop increasing the gains we've made in such a short time?

The World Has Been Waiting, Mr. President

With the end of the Bush era officially complete, it is time for not only the country, but the world to look forth with a new vision and way of settling its differences.

Kyl Continues GOP's Petty Grievances After Obama Asks It To End

Barack Obama gave a masterful speech yesterday. True, it may not have been as lofty as some may have hoped, but it laid out a clear message. That message is that we need to come together as a nation and work on the problems that we face. He was reinforcing his pragmatic vision for the country but for those that he chastised with generalities, well, they took offense, such as the petty Senator from Arizona, Jon Kyl.

From ThinkProgress:

His speech was not high-brow, it was more low-brow and a bit surprising in that regard,” said the Senate Minority Whip. […]

He took exception to Obama’s call for “an end to petty grievances” and a political truce in Washington.

“If the idea is we have to avoid controversy by getting in line behind his proposals, that’s not patriotism,” Kyl said. “If he is asking that everybody agree with him and thereby have a truce, that’s not going to work.”

Either Kyl is being deliberatively obtuse or is just too caught up in the spin that his party continues to let drool out of their collective orifaces. If he had been paying attention to what Obama has been saying for the last two years, Kyl would know that the President wants to put an end to dramatic outbursts such as Kyl's so that we can get down to the business of the country. It isn't only Obama's ideas that will come forth with a truce, but anyone's that will move the nation forward out of these dire times.

Another Problem For Monserrate

As if Senator (ugh) Hiram Monserrate didn't have enough on his legal plate already, his campaign team forgot to send in financial statement to the Board of Elections. Of course this is a small problem in relation to his domestic abuse charges. He can probably get away with pulling a Pedro Espada, though Pedro's case is far worse in this regard. Anyways, here's what happened.

From The Daily Politics:

Perhaps he was distracted by his legal problems, but state Sen, Hiram Monserrate has not yet filed his January periodic financial statement with the State Board of Elections. The statement was due at the board on Jan. 15.

Reached by telephone today, Wayne Mahlke, Monserrate’s deputy chief of staff, said he was unaware that the statement had not been filed and promised that it would be within a week. He could not offer an explanation as to why it was late.

Robert Brehm, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said board officials usually give candidates at least five days before they send warning a letter about statements that have not yet been filed.

So he could see some fines if Mahlke doesn't deliver on his promise, but again, this is the least of his worries. Once his domestic violence case goes to trial, then we'll really get to see some change in Hiram's district, with him being replaced in the Senate and sent to jail for his (alleged) crime.

Best National Anthem Ever

If he were still alive, I would hope he'd have sung this for Barack Obama. Seriously, he makes everything sound sexy...even this:

And Now The Work Begins

Yesterday was a lot of fun, even if I did get the stomach flu sometime in the afternoon. The crowd in D.C. was incredible, the speeches and songs were inspiring (save for parts of Warren's invocation) and the day was filled with joy. From the time Obama went to have coffee with Bush to the last inaugural ball, it was truly a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation. Now that the parties are over, it is time to get to work. Thankfully, President Obama already knows that and is doing a fair amount already.

So far:

He's halted the trials at Guantanamo Bay as to review the entire process and get ready to change it.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has put a halt to all of George Bush's last minute regulation changes.

The United States now helps other countries with birth control efforts again.
And it isn't even ten in the morning here on the East Coast. There is so much to be accomplished in the next four to eight years, but I am confident that we are well on our way to mending the damage done to our country by the Bush Presidency, and hopefully the Bush Sr. and Reagan Administrations as well. As long as we work alongside the President and push for a progressive mandate, the possibilities are endless.

Promising Signs For Shared Sacrifice In Albany

Despite the Governor's persistent denials of going the route of increased taxes on the wealthy, the chances of it happening are continuing to increase. No one knows for sure how much of a grip that the interests of the wealthy have on Paterson, but the Assembly and the Senate have other ideas. Hopefully, the talk of raising taxes on the most fortunate among us will be more than just words.

From The NY Times:

The Assembly, where Democrats have an overwhelming majority, has long supported increasing taxes on the wealthy, and Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, reiterated this month that there continued to be strong backing for the measure among his colleagues.

Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, did not propose any income tax increases in his budget proposal, but acknowledged in last month that “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.”

That could leave the matter in the hands of the Senate, where Democrats won a narrow majority in November. Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, a Manhattan Democrat, said that he planned to introduce a bill in the coming weeks that would increase taxes on the rich, and that he expected his colleagues to have an active debate about the issue.

“There are a lot of us who feel that for the last 30 years we’ve been shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to middle-class families,” Mr. Schneiderman said on Tuesday. “Our conference is operating through consultation and discussion, and I expect we’ll be talking about restoring some additional tax brackets for upper-income New Yorkers as well as a lot of other options.”
A long time ago (meaning the 1940s) the richest people were taxed up to 94% of their earnings and yet continued to prosper just fine. They were not competing for a title in Forbes Magazine, but family wealth has always been shielded very well, even with the Estate tax in place. Of course there was that WWII going on and everyone really did give all of what they had to keep the country fighting and to keep it together.

We may not be in the middle of a World War at the moment, but the crisis we face is still daunting. It requires us to come together and adding a few percent to the tax rates at the top isn't going to hurt as much as the rich scream about the thought of it. Besides, we aren't talking about 94% taxation rates either.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Right Wing Lunacy Continues

While today marks the beginning of a new Presidency, nothing has changed in crazy winger land. When you have pundits such as Jonah Goldberg spouting garbage like this, you know that their mindless drivel will continue with Barack Obama in the White House.

Paterson Knows NY's Next Senator, But Isn't Telling

Governor David Paterson thinks playing coy about who he's chosen to be the next Senator from New York is cute for everyone. He's wrong. This whole episode of Senate drama has been ridiculous, from the sniping of the hopeful candidates to the Governor that is about to pick the lucky duck. Now with the decision made, the fracas continues.

From The Daily Politics:

Speaking at a post-swearing-in brunch hosted by the New York Society, the governor said he came to his decision yesterday afternoon and stressed that he's focused on making a "reasonable" choice, not necessarily the "right" choice.

When asked who he has settled on, he joked: "Why Michelle Obama, of course. She can move to New York." (This is his latest quip response; he has cycled through a number of them now).

When reporters pointed out he has used that one before, Paterson responded: "It shows that I'm maintaining my position."

Maintaining his position doesn't make it a right decision. All he is doing is keeping his face in the spotlight and nothing much for the rest of us. A smart idea would have looked like this, but it is anything but. I guess we'll all have to wait till Saturday. Until then, the speculative eyes have focused on this Congresswoman, not Cuomo or Kennedy.

Bloomberg's Israeli Faux Pas

Everyone, including Mayor Bloomberg is more than welcome to visit Israel and see the modern land of milk and honey. Having been there a few times myself, I know what an incredible country that it is. However, when you wear the politician and Mayor of New York City's hat, the rules change. You are there to be a tourist and as far as political relations go, do business on a city to city level. Tel Aviv is a very cosmopolitan place and so is our very own NYC. Beyond that though, when dealing with foreign relations and crises such as the conflict with/on Gaza, leave the country to country stuff to the President and the Senate, as the Constitution mandates.

From The Columbia Spectator:

Disregard your political views surrounding the recent violence in Gaza. Forget your opinion on whether Israel acted offensively or defensively, whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, or whether the ceasefire came too soon or too late. Put the war aside all together, and still Bloomberg acted out of line and inappropriately when he made a trip to Israeli towns near Gaza on Jan. 4 and offered his support to Israel.

The thousands of demonstrators who filled Times Square two weeks ago and demanded an end to the violence made the first argument against Bloomberg’s trip extremely visual. They made it clear that New York does not speak with a unified voice on this issue. Mayor Bloomberg represents the city­­—he should represent all parts of it.

Yet, many are quick to respond to this argument by stating that whether or not each American agrees with U.S. foreign policy, Israel is a political ally of the United States, and our federal government provides it, at the very least, with diplomatic support for its actions. In this way, Bloomberg’s trip can be viewed as in line with U.S. policy. Yet, ironically, it is this very argument that brings the true inappropriateness of Bloomberg’s actions into focus.

Our federal government’s foreign policy might support Israel, but Bloomberg is not a federal official. He is a city mayor. The constitution makes clear that matters of international relations are to be left to the national government. Article 1, Section 8 delegates the powers of international commerce and war to Congress, while Article 2, Section 2 gives the president the power to make treaties, appoint ambassadors, and serve as commander-in-chief. These rules were designed to prevent one state, or in this case, one city, from forming alliances with different international actors that would conflict with alliances other states would make. The fear was that other countries could divide our nation, pitting one state against another if individual states conducted their own foreign policies. And so it was decided that we could present a unified face abroad and temper potential divisions only if the federal government controlled our foreign policy. It is in the constitution—city mayors are not to be diplomats.

Exactly, and as the article points out that Bloomberg did nothing specfically to violate that (sign treaties, etc) rule, he was still trying to represent the American people and provide a viewpoint not shared by all of the people here. Members of Congress and the President, along with certain members of the Cabinet are within their rights to do so, but they are held accountable by the people as a whole and not just a single, solitary Mayor who just so happens to be from New York City.

Finally, A I Can Believe In

It looks so much better now, doesn't it?

Barack Obama Becomes President, Chief Justice Roberts Forgets Constitution

I have to admit I teared up watching the inauguration of our new President. What a tremendous moment it was for all of us that worked to get him elected, voted for him and the country as a whole as we unify as a nation. Yet as the all important oath of office began, there was a little mix up in the ceremony. It seemed as if Barack Obama had trouble repeating the beginning of the sacred oath. Conservatives are already pouncing on him for it but of course, the truth of the matter escapes them.

From DailyKos:

Actually, it was Roberts that screwed up (23+ / 0-)

... he left out the part about defending the Constitution "against all enemies foreign and domestic".

Just wait: wingnuts will seize upon that to try to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Obama's presidency. "He didn't take the whole oath", they'll scream, "so he's not the President!!!"

And lo and behold, they already are.

I must say, it makes for an interesting start of the Obama Presidency to see the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court make a mess of the Constitution. Perhaps Roberts didn't want to talk about the enemies of the Constitution here at home, such as himself needs to brush up on his Constitutional knowledge..

Update: To respond to R Bent, he is correct, the quote to the DailyKos does not suffice, but the Frontpaged post does...and is still correct, it was Roberts that screwed up.

What A Difference An Inauguration Makes

I hate to infuse negative feelings on this glorious day, but do you remember where you were eight years ago, when George Bush became our 43rd President? Crying in the fetal position, yelling obscenities at the television, locked in a dark room or maybe being as pro-active as you could and protesting Bush as he cowardly hid in his limo for the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue...all things that many Americans did to pass the time on January 21st, 2001.

It was a sad day for many, joyous for his supporters of course, but a tragic day for our democracy, regardless of party. Not even Republicans could imagine the damage he'd do...and now they get it, as Bush leaves with an approval rating in the low 20s, worse than any other President since public opinion polls were created. Even before the wars, the economic meltdown and evaporation of international goodwill, the nation was bitterly divided during the last inauguration.

From Democracy Now:

More and more, Independent Media Centers around the world are a component of progressive activism. A Washington, DC-based IMC is providing up-to-date information and live coverage of inaugural and counter-inaugural events.

On their home page, this morning they write: "The inauguration of George W. Bush comes during a resurgence ofpolitical activism in America and throughout the world and is bringing more and more groups together in the strugglefor democratic and progressive change. Bush’s rapid effort to assemble one of the most pro-corporate cabinets inhistory has led to increased opposition by labor and environmental groups, students and social justice organizations.

“Moreover, mounting evidence that the GOP stole the presidential election by denying African-Americans their right tovote has created public outrage and is leading to a grassroots revival of the civil rights movement. With the Jan. 20 inauguration only [hours] away, thousands of people are mobilizing to protest.”

It was the largest Presidential inauguration since Nixon's second coming. Activists on the left had some idea that bad things were on their way, but could not even fathom the amount of destruction Bush-conservatives would inflict on our country. The passion to fight him was there though, and it culminated in the overthrow of conservative government (to a large degree) throughout the country.

Now eight years later, minus one day, we have one of the greatest displays of hope and exuberance for the future of the nation. Two million or more are braving the cold and wintry D.C. weather, merely for a glimpse down the Mall to see Obama being sworn in. The parade will be a celebration for everyone there and not one that helps to divide us. Sure, there'll be detractors, that is what happens in any large country. Yet we have not been united to such a degree in a very long time. All you need to do is turn on the TV, the radio or the webcast to see it in the crowds down in our capitol.

President Obama, You Must Do This For The Sake Of Our Democracy

There are so many problems to deal with, solutions to find....but, we cannot just leave the past as it is. The torture condoned and promoted by the Bush Administration may not be allowed to just become a part of history, there must be consequences as well.

Not Much Change In Espada's Bronx

While the country is ecstatic for the inauguration of the 44th President, things haven't changed much at all for Senator Pedro Espada. Espada is as arrogant as ever and refuses to comply with the law. He might have a D after his name but is in no way related to the sentiments of Barack Obama. Months after the election that put him back in the Senate, he's still defying campaign laws.

From PolitickerNY:

ALBANY—State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. has missed the deadline for filing a required disclosure report for this political action committee, according to online records. The January periodic report was due on the 15th.

Espada has been in hot water with the Board of Elections for failing to file other disclosure reports around election time and improperly registering his campaign committee. A spokesman for the Board of Elections said last week that Espada had not yet straightened out the earlier discrepancies, and is facing several thousand dollars in fines.[...]

Missing this deadline means Espada has been ignoring financial disclosure requirements for the past several months. He took heat from good government advocates for this before, but there's a certain irony given the current focus of the Democratic conference - in which Espada has a fairly significant role - on reforming the way the Senate does business.
Espada could care less about reform. If anything, he's the anti-thesis of it. The fact that he is participating in the reform efforts is nothing short of scary. Unless he is kept on the outside of that committee, I cannot envision reforms that would curtail the greed and ego of men like Pedro Espada.

Good Morning Hope, Good Morning Change, Good Morning Barack!!!

There's a light blanket of snow outside my window but I feel as happy as if it were a warm sunny day in May. January 20th has finally come! No longer must I have to see those "1-20-09" stickers in windshields, on bumpers or billboards. The day of change has arrived! Millions went to D.C. for the festivities, millions and billions more will watch from home, whether here in America or abroad. It is truly a momentous occasion for not only our country, but the planet as well.

Now Obama isn't going to solve the world's problems with a snap of his fingers. That isn't what I am suggesting by any means. What is important though, is that as the leader of the free world (that title has been tarnished by Bush I know) he can set the tone of many things to come home here at home and on the world stage.

Expanding health care coverage to those in need is a change. Providing economic stimulus to Main Street instead of Wall Street is a change. Rebuilding our nation's infrastructure is a change. Putting people to work is a change. Having the humility to listen to the American people on how to proceed with all of those initiatives is a change we have waited eight long years to finally grasp in our democracy-starved hands.

The world is also overjoyed. Last night, Al Jazeera's Washington bureau chief Abderrahim Foukara told Jon Stewart that many of his viewers are warmed up for the 44th President. The world is going to be able to see the United States not torture people, that'll be a change. Getting out, instead of barging into Iraq will be a change. Signing on to global treaties fighting the climate crisis will be a change. Working with other nations instead of forcing them to do this and that...that'll be a change.

There are so many changes that we looking forward to. Both grand in scope and courageous in purpose. For right now though, on this January 20th, 2009, it is a time to celebrate one simple yet awe-inspiring change, that Barack Obama, an African-American from Hawaii, will take the oath of office in less than four hours from now.

Monday, January 19, 2009

First Came The Dream, Now It Is Time To Work

The dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. were great, as is thereality of the inauguration of Barack Obama tomorrow. Nevertheless, these students at Howard University understand that it isn't just the words Obama speaks that will change our nation but the people who will it to be so.

The End Of The Last Day Of The Last Eight Years

January 19th is drawing to a close here on the East Coast and tomorrow brings a new day and quite possibly a new era for this nation. Barack Obama will become our 44th President and embark on a different course for the America that elected him...and even those that cast their vote for McCain or none of the above. It is going to be quite an adventure in the ensuing months and years, one that will not be easy, but that should be marked with progress.

That stands in complete contrast with the last eight years. Every single day was a fight to keep the country from regressing into the Gilded Age. Liberals won some of those battles, but ended up losing many more. Sure, we have the numbers in Congress now, but at one time we were destined for nothing more than obscurity.

Of course, the nation wised up to what George Bush and the Republican elite were up to. Many had been shocked and horrified by the response to Katrina, the war, the attempt on Social Security and just the President's lackadaisical smirkish behavior in general. A man that had ninety percent approval seven years ago has been reduced to a target for shoe-throwers.

By and large though, he was more of a puppet than anything. The man with at least a few of his strings continues to be disregarded, disliked and despised by even many in his own party. Cheney took executive power to the extreme and enriched himself and his brothers in the military industrial complex multiple times over with the blood of Iraqis and Americans among others. At the end of his reign as Vice-President, he has given the figurative finger to a limp-wristed Congress that refuses to try him for the many crimes he's committed. In fact, Dick is going to write a book to "settle scores" once this is all said and done just to prove that no one is willing to mess with him. What a sad, miserable excuse for a human being that he is.

Throughout this national nightmare though, there have been rays of sunshine in our long-running darkness. ThinkProgress notes 43 people or groups that have made a difference, if only in the psyche of society. From musicians to Congressmembers, Gold Star parents to Judges, many Americans have made a difference in the fight against George Bush's assault on our democracy. They should all be proud of their actions as we are grateful to them and all those that helped bring this colossal shame to an end.

Now we need our heroes and everyday folks to stand up just as tall and fight just as hard during the Obama Administration. There are forces against us that still reside in halls of Congress and office buildings of K Street. All of us need to put them in their place....and continually remind President Obama who put him in his spot in the White House.