Saturday, March 07, 2009

Good News On The "Dean For Surgeon General" Front

When I saw that Dr. Sanjay Gupta had dropped out of the running to be Surgeon General, the first name that came to mind was my man Howard Dean. Dr. Dean was passed over at HHS and had subsequently stated he was coming back to DFA among other things. However, with Gupta gone it was Dean's time to shine. I wrote yesterday about those feelings and apparently the White House has similar inclinations.

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Howard Dean, a practicing physician before entering politics, was under consideration by the Obama administration for the post of U.S. surgeon general, CNN reported Friday.

Dean, who recently wrapped up a four-year term as Democratic Party chairman, has been a supporter of health reform, and has privately made clear that he is interested in the job, according to the cable network.

CNN said two White House officials noted that, while it is too early to compile a list of candidates for surgeon general, they did not rule out Dean getting the job.

His name isn't set in stone for the position yet, but simply having been mentioned is a big deal. With no other names in contention, having Howard spotlighted is a good way to securing the prestigious position within the Obama Administration. I would love to have Howard working full time for us who are associated with Democracy for America, but my preference is that he is working for the entire country instead.

President Obama Stays Realistic Yet Hopeful

Obama starts out on a somber tone but focuses on what we must do as a nation to help America recover from this fiscal malaise...and how Washington must change to work for their constituents and not just for earmarks alone.

Bank Of America Is Right

I wholeheartedly agree with the lawyers representing one of the biggest banks in America. Disclosing the bonuses of Merrill Lynch employees preceding BoA's acquisition will cause "grave and irreparable harm" if the information gets out to the public.

Guess what?

I can't wait to see all of those details disclosed, down to the very last penny.

Does that mean Bank of America will fail? No, I doubt that will happen at this date, the government Fed has invested too much money in them (like they have in AIG) to let the megalithic bank go down in flames.

The "harm" will come in other ways though. With Cuomo's help as New York's Attorney General, the insatiable and devastating greed of these Wall Street houses will continue to be in the news. While Main Street suffers, those living on it will be able to see the wealthy protest having their dirty laundry aired out in public. It will harm their reputations and deservedly so.

Whatever these people are guilty of, the more that we know about it, the better we'll be in the long run. Unless we get full accountability then nothing systemic will change. Without justice, there will just be another bubble down the line and this catastrophic economic environment will be recreated again.

There was a few minutes dedicated to this issue on Bill Maher's show last night. One of the panelists, I believe the CNBC anchor, was saying that the rich have suffered, with trillions in assets having vanished over the last few months. Maher, ever the brilliant debater, countered with the fact that the rich are not suffering, it is their bank statements that are hurting. Other Americans, the ones that are foregoing three meals a day to make ends meet, those are the people that are truly suffering in this fiscal crisis.

We need to get our priorities straight in this country. I think President Obama is trying to guide us out of the greed and self-serving behavior of the last eight thirty years since we heard how greed is good under Reagan. Though as Obama said, it can't be done by him alone. So by exposing these titans of Wall Street who pillaged their companies before they collapsed, we are serving the greater good for a change. And if that causes these people grave and irreperable harm....well, they did it to themselves.

Gang Of Three Back Together Again To Scuttle MTA Bailout Bill

It is crunch time in Albany for the budget and in regard to mass transit in New York City, that is very serious business. The M.T.A. has already approved massive fare increases and tremendous service cuts if they do not get capital from the Legislature. The Assembly is ready to help, but the State Senate is unfortunately a partisan battleground. With the divide between Dems and Repubs so slim, who else would get in the way of legislation to help straphangers than the infamous Gang of Three (Kruger, Espada and Diaz). Screwing their party over for individual gain is nothing new but these men represent the very New Yorkers that depend on mass transit.

As the Gotham Gazette points out, it hardly makes any sense:

Most of Krueger’s constituents do have a car but do not use it for a daily drive to Manhattan’s central business district. Of the 32 percent of his constituents who commute to that part of Manhttan, about 84 percent take mass transit.

In Diaz’s Bronx district more than five times as many people take mass transit to the business district as drive. Two thirds of his constituents do not even own a car. In Espada’s adjacent Bronx district, more than 70 percent of residents do not have a car and less than 4 percent drive to the central business district as compared with 29 percent who take mass transit.

“Taxi drivers have to pay, too, and they will have to increase their fares. Who is gonna pay for that? The people,” Diaz told Gotham Gazette. Or at least all those residents of the South Bronx who take cabs to work every day.

I know that gentrification has been an issue in the city for a while now, but it hasn't reached the South Bronx. Up there the 4/5/6, the 2 and the B/D trains along with myriad bus routes are what moves people around, not Yellow Cabs that start at $2.50 just to get in the door. What this action means for Malcolm Smith is that it will be up to Republicans to make the deal go through. If Golden, Lanza and Padavan are responsible for the bill's passage, they can tout "hero" status for their re-election campaigns while leaving Malcolm Smith looking like a Leader who can't get his herd in order.

If Smith were smart, he should be working very quietly to rid Manhattan and the Bronx of their 'Gang problem.' That way we can add three more solid, progressive Democrats to the caucus two months before the November election.

Friday, March 06, 2009

SEIU Leaders Talk About Being A Part Of Obama's Health Care Strategy Group

Could you imagine George Bush ever inviting labor union leaders into the White House to talk about how to make health care more affordable? Yeah, me neither.

Paterson Considers Going Anti-Green

No, not Mark Green. The green initiative that we as a society are fighting for so that global warming doesn't destroy our civilization. Apparently Governor Paterson is determined to keep making the wrong choices by siding with the fossil fuel industry by rolling back regulations that were actually instituted during the Pataki Administration.

From The NY Times:

ALBANY — At the urging of the energy industry, Gov. David A. Paterson has agreed to reconsider a key rule New York adopted as part of a 10-state pact aimed at reducing the threat of global warming by cutting power plant emissions.

Mr. Paterson appeared to overrule the State Department of Environmental Conservation in making the move, which would reopen state regulations to provide power plants leeway to release greater amounts of emissions at no additional cost. Administration officials said the governor was concerned the rule might unfairly burden the energy industry.

His decision infuriated environmental groups, which learned of Mr. Paterson’s decision just this week, though he met with energy executives privately last fall and assured them he would take the step.
You know, I had high hopes for Paterson when he took over almost a year ago. Spitzer was just too corrosive and that whole hooker thing really took him down. Paterson was supposed to be more of a negotiator and someone that the Legislature could work with. However, the more time passes, the amount of wrong decisions keep piling up. The fact that he did this in private last year without telling anyone makes it even worse.

It just makes me wonder, would a Governor Cuomo consider such a regressive measure for our environment, our health and the general direction of how we are going to shape our energy economy for the future. My gut says, "No!"

Bloomberg Defends NY's Poor Millionaires

After tens of thousands of New Yorkers came out to support the Fair Share Tax plan, someone needed to speak up for the wealthy elite. Being a millionaire must be tough these days, only being able to buy one yacht instead of two. So who better to speak up for their rights than our billionaire Mayor?

From The Daily Politics:

"We can tax the rich, except that, if you haven't looked at the stock market lately, they aren't making any money," the billionaire mayor told John Gambling during his weekly WOR radio show.

"They're not making that money," Bloomberg continued. "I hear the protesters, you know. I think that deep down inside, I assume, they understand that we live in a different world."

"The first rule of taxation is, you can't tax those that - too much - you can't tax too much those that can move. And a very small percentage of people do account for a big part of our income."

"You know, the yelling and screaming about the rich, we want rich from around this country to move here. We love the rich people."

"They're the ones that buy in the stores so that people that work in the stores have jobs in the stores, generate sales tax. The rich are the ones that go to the expensive restaurants where, as a matter of fact, I looked at a list the other day of restaurants where the staff is unionized. They're the expensive restaurants. They're not the cheap restaurants."

Wow, does Bloomberg really think that us proles will believe that crap? The riff-raff that Bloomberg expects to vote him into a third term is suffering more than it has in decades. Yet Bloomberg wants to make the poor pay for the budget cuts.

If we would focus on getting the working class back to work, it would be they that would purchase the goods and dine at the stores. The rich already do that, in good times and bad. The rich aren't going to move out of New York, because this city offers so much to so many, especially those with money to spend. And this may be news to the Mayor, but it is the working class and the poor that are being driven out of the city by the thousands. Thanks to zoning laws that favor developers and the real estate industry, affordable housing is an afterthought to Bloomberg and the units he leaves aren't affordable to those that make less than the median salary.

Mayor Bloomberg is clearly out of touch, just another reason to show him the door in November.

Rachel Maddow Asks Don Siegelman About His Thougts on Rove's Upcoming Testimony

Former Democratic Governor of Alabama Don Siegelman went on Rachel's show this week to talk about what Rove might say. He wants Congress to take their time to ensure that Karl Rove and the entire appartus behind him is held fully accountable.

Dr. Gupta Goes Back To CNN, Can We Finally Make Dr. Dean Surgeon General?

The breaking news last night was that Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN declined the Surgeon General position. His only relevance to the position was that he's been on TV and of course, he's a neurosurgeon. Yeah, being a neurosurgeon is cool, but lying about our health care crisis is not, and we don't need that, especially in these times. So like any CNN personality, he went to another CNN personality to explain himself:

"This is more about my family and my surgical career," Gupta told CNN's "Larry King Live."

The neurosurgeon said he would likely have had to give up practicing had he taken the job as the nation's top doctor.

In addition, the 39-year-old and his wife are expecting their third daughter any time, and the government job would have meant long periods away from his family, he said.

"I think, for me, it really came down to a sense of timing more than anything else," he said. "I just didn't feel I should do that now."
Families are important, and if he isn't up to helping protect America's families, then we need someone who will. I heard that Howard Dean was back and he's made himself a full plate for the foreseeable future. Coming back to run DFA, consult and help wherever he can is great news. It just wouldn't be the best news, at least to me. Now that the Surgeon General position is open again, it is time for Rahm to put his bad feelings aside and get Dr. Dean into the Administration as Surgeon General. Dean is a passionate advocate of providing great health care, as Governor of Vermont for more than a decade, on his campaign for the Presidency in 2004 and for the last five years even while he ran the DNC.

Mr. President, Dr. Dean is the man for the job.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Tens Of Thousands Rally For Fair Share Tax Reform

Governor Paterson, Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and a few too many other State Senators have not come forward as of yet to support the Fair Share Tax Reform Act. What the proposed bill would do is simple. Instead of punishing the working class for the budget deficits caused by Wall Street's unadulterated greed, we should split that burden with the rich by making the state income tax progressive in nature with a tiered system.

However, with multiple bills presented in the Senate, Majority Leader Smith has not shown the leadership necessary to support his middle class constituents. Instead, he and the governor are listening to the lobbyists of big business at the expense of hard working New Yorkers. So what are those New Yorkers to do? Turn out for a huge rally at City Hall Park.

Having the afternoon off, I had to go down and join the action, though I had no idea how many people would actually show. Here's the first sight I saw:

Don't worry, all the cops were on their best behavior at the event with what looked like a good amount of people, perhaps even a couple thousand. Then I was told I had to walk over a block and then up a few to enter the crowd you see behind the sleepy police officer.

While walking, all sorts of signs were on display, including this sweet guy that still refers to his mother as "Mommy."

Once I went around, I got a better view of the stage and not surprisingly it was full of politicians and union organizers. If you can't tell the man at the podium is City Comptroller and Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.

While the speeches were great, they were mostly the same, so I decided to venture away from the stage and check out the people who showed up for this. As you can tell, the area around the four-block long park was packed. The park however, was only so big, so the crowd overflow was led up Broadway. Jumbo-trons and sound systems were set up so that people could hear who were nearly a mile up the street. At one point the crowd was checked at 40,000 people....40,000, on a Thursday afternoon! Ahem, Governor Paterson, that translates quite a few votes, if you know what I'm saying, cough, primary race next year, cough, cough.

Then just before I reached the back of the crowd, I ran into City Council candidate Josh Skaller, who came out from Brooklyn to demand that Albany listen to the demands of working New Yorkers. He may look happy and serene in the picture, but he's ready to get tough and defend this barricade and many more if he gets the chance to represent the 39th Council District.

Tens of thousands of dedicated working people, all who can vote and want to not only be heard, but recognized and respected by their Governor and the rest of the politicians up in Albany. I certainly hope they got the message to support this legislation. Of course, it doesn't hurt to keep reminding them. You can do that by contacting your legislator and by getting involved locally.

Betsy Gotbaum's Mediocre One Minute At The Fair Share Rally

I took this video in the afternoon during the Fair Share Tax Rally downtown. The crowd was great and at first Gotbaum sounded pretty decent and enthused about being on stage. The ending however, especially the last twenty seconds and her laughter was not as inspirational as I'd have hoped it to be.

Could you imagine Mark Green, Norman Siegel, John Liu (he just dropped out) or Eric Gioia sounding like that? Yeah, I don't think so either.

Dems Vs. Repubs: Should Health Care Be A Right, Or A Privilege

As much as Ralph Nader says there's no difference between the two parties, the facts say otherwise. Case in point, health care. Barack Obama is holding a conference today on what to do about our currently broken system. One thing is for sure about it, the President stated that the status quo must change. Entrenched business interests are frightened about losing the power to set rates, for if the people had a chance to have a real choice in what plans were offered, health care executives would either have to lower their obscene rates and exclusionary practices or lose customers. In this debate, it is important to know who has the people's interests at heart and those that back the wealthy insurers.

From ThinkProgress:

...In response, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) went on MSNBC to explain his opposition to Obama’s stated goal of comprehensive health care reform, arguing that health care is “a privilege,” not a right:

WAMP: Listen, health care a privilege. […]

MSNBC: Well, it’s a privilege? Health care? I mean if you have cancer right now, do you see it as a privilege to get treatment?

WAMP: I was just about to say, for some people it’s a right. But for everyone, frankly, it’s not necessarily a right.

Wamp went on to claim that many Americans are uninsured by choice because they “rejected” the insurance plan offered by their employers. Asked to respond to Wamp, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) remarked “Well my reaction is that it was said by somebody who has a really good health [insurance] plan as a member of the House of Representatives.” “More importantly than that [health care] is a right in this country,” Brown concluded.

In Wamp's view, if you can't manage to afford life-saving surgery or treatment, then too bad for you. Of course, he has no problem taking money from taxpayers for his own incredible insurance plan, but to Republicans like Wamp no matters in this world but him. I wonder how the people of his district feel about a statement like that? With a median income of less than $36,000 a year in the district and an 8.6% unemployment rate across the state (generally worse in the Applachian areas than the rest of the state), I'm sure there are at least a few people who might have a word or two with Mr. Wamp next time he visits the district.

Skelos And Senate GOP Love Budget Cuts, Hate Taxes

What's new right?

Minority Leader Dean Skelos is trying to make some headway into the budget battle by submitting his own plan. That brilliant plan includes all the cuts to essential services that Paterson is in favor of, but with an added stipulation, no new taxes, whether they be on the rich or for soda. Oh and they have a plan for that stimulus money Obama is throwing our way. Can you guess what they'd do with it?

From PolitickerNY:

Minority Leader Dean Skelos and over a dozen of his members--many of whom have decades of experience on issues as committee chairmen--unveiled a budget counterproposal that would use stimulus funds to roll back proposed tax increases and a repeal of the STAR rebate program, save additional money by consolidating state agencies (scant details were provided) and reducing spending as well as collecting cigarette taxes on Indian reservations.[...]

The Senate Republicans also proposed an alternative college savings program that will allow families with children under 14 to pre-pay tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools by either the semester or the credit hour to "lock in" rates. It wasn't immediately clear whether such payments would be eligible for federal tax incentives or student loan programs.

The Republican plan would also keep money raised from increased SUNY and CUNY tuition within the system, instead of sending 90 percent of the money to the state's general fund.

I personally like the idea that money for schools be kept in the school system over Paterson's proposal, even though it isn't the ideal situation where we do not raise tuition at all. However, the rest of it is just ridiculous. Keeping taxes where they are now is the wrong idea with the budget deficit we are dealing with. Shared sacrifice is crucial to making this next fiscal year work. A combination of cuts, tax increases (on the wealthy, not Paterson's punitive model) and stimulus money can help put us back in the black. Of course, Skelos is in the minority for a reason and much like the election of Barack Obama, it is time to change how things work in New York.

Jon Stewart Decimates CNBC

Reminiscent of when Stewart went on CNN's Crossfire several years ago, this segment from last night is going down in the Daily Show's greatest memories:

It seems as if it were better that Santelli did cancel on Stewart. I'm sure that Rick would have been asked some question, but there was no way that these few minutes could have gone any better if he did have Mr. Santelli to question.

Steele's Latest Gambit, Getting The GOP Sober

RNC Chairman Michael Steele is the gift that keeps giving. Just as having Rush as the actual leader of the GOP, Steele's almost daily comments must have much of his party on edge while he has Democrats laughing almost constantly. Although this doesn't beat his "suburban hip-hop" comments to the Washington Times two weeks ago, comparing his party to an addict in throes of their addiction is certainly amusing.

From The Huffington Post:

Speaking to the Maryland radio station WBAL, Steele said that "no one individual" was head of the party and described his comments downplaying Limbaugh's show and influence as inartful. He added that if Republicans wanted to ascend back to the heights of political power, they had to stop trying to be "cool and hip in a Democrat way," and admit their past mistakes.

"I am putting the party on a 12-step program of recovery," said the RNC chair. "This is going to take some time, it is going to take some effort. But we are prepared to move forward and to state the case, make the case to the American people that we have something to offer. We are not here to be the party that is just here to say no. We are not the party to be in opposition just for the sake of opposition."

Funny enough, drug addict Rush Limbaugh is the head of the party and he'll fight tooth and nail (at least through a microphone) to make sure people know it. I wonder if Steele was indirectly telling Rush to find recovery for his own good. I don't know how he's doing with Oxycontin, but Overeaters Anonymous could be at least one program for him to try.

As for the Republican party, there is no way that anyone on the right is going to get past the first step if they don't even acknowledge a problem with their actions. Over at CPAC last weekend, the general idea was that they were not active enough in their addiction to "free markets" and hating the Democratic party at all costs. It would be akin to an alcoholic drinking more to solve his or her problems caused by all that booze. What the GOP really needs is to be thrown into rehab where they learn how their pro-corporate policies have been ruining millions of American lives.

Cuomo Remains Tough As NY's Attorney General

While Paterson's popularity plummets, Andrew Cuomo's stock continues to soar. The difference is attributable to what each politician is doing. The former can't keep his agenda straight, with budget woes, being off-message, inability to control his staff and starting off with the Senate appointment saga, looks like the typically secretive Albany pol. Meanwhile Cuomo is busting financial bad guys.

From The Huffington Post:

Some of the top earners at Merrill Lynch who were given $209 million in 2008 were subpoenaed by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday, a source close to the investigation tells the Huffington Post.

The subpoenas were served on the seven executives - including Andrea Orcel, the firm's top investment banker (who was paid $33.8 million in cash and stock in 2008), trading chief Thomas Montag and former head of strategy Peter Kraus, who were named in a story in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, according to the source.

The subpoenas compel the executives, some of whom currently work at Bank of America, to come in and discuss their bonuses, who they communicated with regarding their bonuses, when they got their bonuses and other relevant information, says the source.

He's forcing these crooks out into the opening with their books in hand. It seems that these companies protest and then Cuomo swoops in and while not giving these people the jailtime they deserve yet, certainly working hard to expose what they've been up to and showing how they screwed the economy for their own personal gain.

The news must be bittersweet for Paterson, as catching corporate criminals that caused the state's budget woes is a great thing, but his competition in the Democratic primary is the one getting all the credit. Of course, no one knows how Cuomo would be in the Executive's chair. The last time we had a kick-ass, take-no-names Attorney General become governor....well, we all know how Paterson got this gig anyhow. I'm not saying that Cuomo will be like Paterson's predecessor, but the trappings of each office are remarkably different. It almost seems that it's better to be the A.G. than the Gov.

Dean Gives His Two Cents On Obama's Health Care Plan And The Power Of Choice

Basically what the good Governor is saying is that you cannot take an academic health care model and simply impose it on the people. Instead they must be able to choose what they want and depending on who serves their needs best, gets the majority of the people's business. What is certain though is, that the way things are going now, where health insurance companies get to run the show, is a dead deal.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Neverending Greed Of Countrywide Execs

In the last few months there have been myriad stories of greedy bankers and financial types that got rich by making risky ventures and putting the entire economy in peril. These people were all in it for making it rich today, without thinking about the consequences that would inevitably come tomorrow. Some have repented, but most are just looking to escape with their loot. Others though, are in a class of evil all to themselves.

From RawStory:

Stanford L. Kurland, the former president of Countrywide Financial the bank that has become most synonymous with the bad mortgage lending practices that eventually caused the housing market to burst, setting into motion the current financial crisis and colleagues from the defunct firm now run PennyMac.

The company, headquartered in the same Los Angeles suburb where Countrywide was managed before it was sold to Bank of America last summer, specializes in buying up bad home mortgages that the U.S. government took over from other failed banks, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

PennyMac has been buying up some of those mortgages for just a fraction of their value, and they keep a portion of whatever money they collect from the mortgage holder.
Basically they are scumbags of the lowest order. Making money on top of the money they made by destroying the lives of families across America. Without hesitation, these people are jumping from one market their greed destroyed to the next. If there is something to compare this to, it would be this in this quote from the article:

It is sort of like the arsonist who sets fire to the house and then buys up the charred remains and resells it, said Margot Saunders, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center. The organization has for years sought to limit the sort of abusive lending practices that were employed by Countrywide and other financial companies.
And instead of arresting the arsonist, we are rewarding him for the embers he has left behind. Of course, a real arsonist, once identified would be hunted down, caught and thrown in jail with compliments of the full weight of the legal system. However when it comes to financial destruction, the criminals get a chance to make even more money.

Brodsky's Bright Idea To Save NY More Than $2 Billion

Assemblyman Brodsky is never afraid to voice his opinion, especially when it comes to the best interests of his district. His latest outrage is directed at the producers of New York's power, electric power. Specifically the way that electricity is bid for is fundamentally flawed and biased for the suppliers, not the consumers. So Brodsky's suggestion (and hopefully a subsequent law) is to change the process to put the power, so to speak, in the people's hands.

From Press Connects:

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, Tuesday introduced a bill that would abolish the way the price of electricity is currently set - known as "pay as bid" - and replace it with one where producers would be paid what they were willing to take.

The current system, Brodsky said, is "insane ... It is absurd, destructive and needs to be changed." He estimated changing it would save ratepayers about $2.2 billion a year.
Sounds good to me. Does that sound good to you? Well, not so much if you are a part of the industry that supplies that power. They have a few things to say about what Brodsky wants to do:

The head of an industry trade group, however, said the claims are wrong. Gavin Donohue of Independent Power Producers of New York says the system encourages cleaner generators of electricity such as wind or hydro power, which can profit from higher prices. Less efficient, greater polluting and older coal plants would profit less or not at all under the system, he said.
Of course, things worked just fine before we started deregulating the energy market. In fact, it worked a whole lot better because companies were more responsible to the people that they supplied power to. After deregulation we saw travesties like the Enron debacle and the interest in stockholders instead of the grid that has been falling apart (remember that blackout in 2003?). Brodsky's approach should be combined within a greater movement that puts power back into the hands of the people, from energy regulation to fiscal regulation and everything in between. Now if we can just find someone willing to take a strong position behind those ideals and enact them. Governor Paterson? Governor Cuom....well I guess that is still up for debate, but in the meantime, big props to Assemblyman Brodsky.

Tedisco Vs Murphy, Live And In Color

For residents of New York's 20th Congressional district, yesterday's debate between Tedisco and Murphy was a big one. Of course, it is also important for the country, as the House may have one new member that ducks and weaves questions asked of him that concern us all and the other that wants support the President in his quest to pull us out of our recession.

And the wrap-up afterwards:

Jerry Brown Calls For A Judicial End To Prop H8TE

Early last year the California Supreme Court allowed gay couples to have the same marital rights as straight couples. That was followed by an ashamedly successful attempt at squashing those equal rights established by the state's Court. Now the issue is back at the CA Supreme Court because the constitutionality of the proposition is in question. During the process, California Attorney General Jerry Brown subtly took the side of equal rights proponents, but had to hold back because of his position within the government. Today he is pulling no punches as the Court considers to strike down Prop 8 and affirm their decision from last year.

From DailyKos:

The case touches the heart of our democracy and poses a profound question: can a bare majority of voters strip away an inalienable right through the initiative process? If so, what possible meaning does the word inalienable have?

The state faced a dilemma like this before. In 1964, 65 percent of California voters approved Proposition 14, which would have legalized racial discrimination in the selling or renting of housing. Both the California and U.S. Supreme Courts struck down this proposition, concluding that it amounted to an unconstitutional denial of rights.

As California's Attorney General, I believe the Court should strike down Proposition 8 for remarkably similar reasons – because it unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples and deprives them of the fundamental right to marry.

Some vigorously disagree. That's the position of Ken Starr and those who argue that a simple majority can eliminate the right to marry. But such a claim completely ignores California's history and the nature of our constitution.

Fundamental rights in California are recognized and protected by our constitution, which declares in Article I, Section 1 that "all people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights" and "among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy."

At the end of the day everyone's rights under the law must be protected, preserved and enshrined whether or not they love someone of the same sex or not. The Court understood the importance of liberty last year and it should not be any different in 2009. Tyranny by the majority is something that our country has fought against for centuries, slowly expanding fundamental rights to all citizens. That progress must not be impeded because a victory for equal rights would send a loud and clear message across the country.

Quinn Considers Going Back On Income Tax Adjustments For The Rich

Last month when Speaker Quinn gave her State of the City address, many were surprised by her sudden willingness to take on the Mayor. I for one was thrilled to see her think about average New Yorkers and help pay for our deficits by taxing the rich instead of always taking from the poor (as Bloomberg has...or more appropriately, driving them out of the city). Of course, she had no problem going around the voters' will last year and extending term limits so that Bloomberg and herself could run for another term, so my trust in her leadership abilities was beyond shattered. So when she hedged on her idea to increase taxes on the rich yesterday, it wasn't too suprising.

From PolitickerNY:

Asked about the prospective of a perfect storm of taxation on upper-income New Yorkers, Ms. Quinn seemed at least willing to entertain the possibility of altering her plan.

“We are going to follow after the state to see what the state does,” she said. “I think that, although I very clearly believe that those who make more have to help out at times like this, we still have to be mindful of a piling-on effect, and even for a multimillionaire, there is some point at which, with A, B, C tax increase, tax increase D will be too many.”

So is she backing off her plan already, should the state adopt a new tax increase?

No, she said. “We just have to see what happens.”

That means she's still on the right side of the issue, but her slight waver is troublesome from a politician such as herself. After slush-fund scandals and the term limits fiasco, her credibility is shot. I certainly hope she comes through on this small city tax hike for the wealthiest among us, but it isn't set in stone.

Citizen Action NY Shows Race Matters In The State's Budget

Paterson may not have thought about race in presenting his budget, but the institutional racism of how the system works is perpetuated in his current proposal for the next fiscal year. Citizen Action NY's team explains how:

Lo And Behold, The Stimulus Bill Really Can Stimulate The Economy

Now I know Republicans hate government, especially when it can actually work for the people where private enterprise comes up short. Private business, innovation and entrepreneurship is great, but not all the time, as we can clearly see in this economy. So Barack Obama moved the stimulus bill through Congress, wanting to jump start activity. Republicans screamed and cried the whole way through, claiming that it wouldn't create jobs. Rush Limbaugh subject RNC Chairman Michael Steele said it would create work, but not jobs. Well, it is only March, but thanks to the bill there are people working now thanks to the jobs created to rebuild our infrastructure.

From The NY Times:

There is nothing monumental in President Obama’s plan to revive the economy with a coast-to-coast building spree, no historic New Deal public works. The goal of the stimulus plan was to put people to work quickly, and so states across the country have begun to spend nearly $50 billion on thousands of smaller transportation projects that could employ up to 400,000 people, by the administration’s estimates.

More than a dozen states have now said how they plan to spend at least some of their transportation money, giving the clearest picture yet of how one of the president’s signature programs is playing out around the country. Beyond all the money for Medicaid and unemployment benefits in the huge bill passed last month, this will be the face of the country’s stimulus program: a bridge will be painted on a rural road, a new lane added on a suburban highway, a guardrail built on a median strip.

They may be old plans that the recession had forced a state to shelve, but multiplied by thousands, they will quickly get bulldozers rolling again and paychecks flowing. On the highway projects alone, the White House said Tuesday that 150,000 jobs would be created or saved.
The only problem was that there wasn't enough money to fund all the projects that states wanted to begin on. Obama wanted something quick and he got that, the only trouble was that it got watered down. Now that the construction industry is rehiring workers they let go, it is time to put together a real, comprehensive transportation stimulus package. This past bill had to cover many different segments of the economy but when we really focus on infrastructure, the benefits we'll receive will far outweigh the costs to the treasury.

Instead of another TARP-like bill, we should be spending at least half a trillion solely on transport. Further, roads should only be a small percentage of that. Mass transit must be made a priority as we make the transisition from a petro-economy to a green-economy. The other day I heard someone complaining about the NYC transit system, and rightly so. It is packed and overcrowded and the service stinks. That person's response was a typical one when thinking on the individual a car to have your own space. The only problem with that is the government must spend money to maintain both options and going the 'car' route only makes things worse for us all. Now if we made mass transit more amenable by running more trains, had more routes and cleaned things up a bit, then the complaints would drop as we invested more in the system.

So if that small infusion of cash that we are seeing go to work now makes an impact, imagine what a comprehensive package would do for the country.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tedisco Lies About Stimulus Bill In Debate With Murphy

It has to be hard to stick to the facts as a Republican in 2009. When you tell the truth, the picture is bleak, especially since the financial crisis was primarily caused by their deregulation agenda and "greed is good" mentality. As Tedisco and Murphy face off for Gillibrand's Congressional seat, the Republican has some serious hoops to jump through in order to look good, but it is nearly impossible to use a GOP talking point and not get yourself into trouble.

From The Albany Project:

Tedisco is in a rather uncomfortable position. He's trying to keep at least some distance from the trainwreck that is the House GOP by continuing to refuse to say whether he would have been the only member of the House Republican caucus to vote for the recently passed stimulus package, something he is still refusing to do.

Murphy asked Tedisco directly to declare his stance on the federal stimulus plan, as he has been pushing him to do on the campaign trail for more than 2 weeks. Tedisco didn't respond, but turned to an example of one of his accomplishments as an assemblyman, the alternative fuel fund.

But then he did something to make sure he didn't stray too far from GOP orthodoxy by repeating the now thoroughly debunked claim that the stimulus package contained $30 million for protecting a marsh mouse in San Francisco. You remember that bit of nonsense don't you[...]

Tedisco even invented a new price tag for this completely made up, nonexistent program claiming that it would cost "$32 million."

Philip asks whether Tedisco is lying or merely misinformed. Although I suspect that is a rhetorical question, I'll answer it anyway. The man is lying. Why would the residents of NY-20, in such crucial times for upstate New York and the nation, want a man that can't stake a position on the stimulus bill and on top of that, lies about what's in it. The country is collectively trying to get rid of Congressmembers that are denying the reality of our situation. Why on Earth would we want to add another to the mix?

Rep. Kaptur Scolds Republican Congressman For "Democrat" Reference

It has been happening more often lately, Democratic members are standing up to Republicans who play childish games with them. Here we have Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur tearing Texas Representative Jeb Hensarling for his disrespect for the Majority party.

Nice work Marcy!

Under George Bush, Freedom Of Speech And The Press Were The First To Go

We pride ourselves as a nation of being a beacon of freedom, land of liberty, shelter for the oppressed masses....or at least we used to before George Bush became President. As bad as we saw it get under our last President, it was much, much worse. It was obvious President Bush didn't have much respect for the laws, but not to the degree that Attorney General Eric Holder has uncovered.

From ThinkProgress:

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder released several Bush administration Office of Legal Counsel memos, which show the astonishing extent to which the administration expanded its wartime powers. An October 2001 memo from John Yoo, for example, states that the “Fourth Amendment would not apply” for domestic military operations. The memo also restricted basic First Amendment rights:

In perhaps the most surprising assertion, the Oct. 23, 2001, memo suggested the president could even suspend press freedoms if he concluded it was necessary to wage the war on terror. “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully,” Yoo wrote in the memo entitled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activity Within the United States.”

Thank goodness we have a competent and truthful Attorney General now that is willing to uncover and expose the abuses from the previous Administration. The more I hear from Holder, the more I like him. Of course, I could like a horde of rats in a dark subway tunnel more than John Yoo and the Attorney Generals that he worked for from 2001 to this past January. Hopefully these small nuggets of truthful morsels will keep coming out and ideally, that we prosecute each and every Bush Administration official that willingly broke the laws of our country that are supposed to keep us as free a nation as possible.

Schumer No Longer Such Good Friends With Wall St.

For as long as Chuck Schumer has been in the Senate, he's been one of the first legislators that the financial industry went to in order to get their business "taken care of." As a Senator who represents the little piece of land that Wall Street resides on, in order to get access to the bankers' pockets, he had to do his best to please them...for nearly thirty years. Thanks to the pro-business legislation he helped pass, we are in the worst fiscal crisis in more than a generation (or three). Unlike Republicans though, Mr. Schumer might just be seeing the error of his ways and could possibly repent for them.

From Crain's:

One massive economic crisis later, Mr. Schumer said that a strong financial-services regulator is needed to help rebuild confidence in U.S. markets, because jittery investors around the world are looking for places where they can trust that tough regulators will protect their interests. To that end, he called for the most dramatic overhaul of the U.S. financial regulatory system since 1933 and urged the new regulators be granted the power to “get in ahead” of problems before they explode.

“We need a smarter regulator, a tougher regulator,” he said, adding that he would like to see the Securities and Exchange Commission move its headquarters to New York from Washington so it can be closer to the banks and brokerage houses it is charged with overseeing. He added that federal regulation of financial services should be overhauled to become more global in scope and that supervisors should be watching for “systemic risk” so that problems at places like American International Group do not infect the entire system.

Mr. Schumer, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said that a regulatory reform bill would be presented to President Barack Obama by April.

Two years ago, Mr. Schumer, along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, released a report prepared by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. which warned that the regulatory system was a big problem that threatened New York’s standing as the world’s financial capital.

Even if you idolized Gordon Gekko in the eighties, that doesn't mean you have to follow him off the cliff in 2009. I suspect Schumer enjoyed that movie when it came out, but the consequences of that mentality are front and center for the senior Senator from New York these days. Like Rep Walter Jones's (R-NC) transformation on Iraq after signing so many letters to the families of fallen troops, everyone has the ability to change their ways. If Schumer keeps it up and actually starts regulating, beyond just moving the SEC's location and generalities about improving the system, then I wholeheartedly welcome him to the more economically liberal wing of the Democratic party.

Corporate America Can't Scare Us From EFCA

The Employee Free Choice Act will be a serious boon to all working Americans, both in and out of unions. This scares the hell out of the top executives in this country that profit off keeping the working and middle class down. As the vote on EFCA draws near, don't buy their scare tactics and keep your eye on the ball.

Stand Up For The Fair Share Plan This Thursday At City Hall

Fair share tax reform is one of the most important debates within the state budget battle this year. If New York could pass this legislation and raise half amount needed to close the budget gap with a progressive tax scale, the implications going forth are instrumental. For far too long, the income gap has been widening between rich and poor at exponential levels. Something must be done to turn that tide and bring our society back to shared human values and not just pure, unadulterated greed.

The Fair Share Plan is a crucial step for us to not only help us in this fiscal crisis but from here on out so that we can take care of our communities whether it be in good times or bad. Even during the boom years, it was the wealthy that got ahead and the rest of us remained static. To change that we must pass the fair share bill in the State Senate. While we have more than twenty on our side, it is up to the community to push a few more of them to vote the right way. If you are in Manhattan Thursday afternoon, come out to City Hall and have your voice heard.

From Fair Share Reform:

Devastating budget cuts threaten our communities, our jobs, our neighbors and our families. Join union members, community groups, non-profit organizations and concerned citizens to speak out against the dangerous budget proposals now being considered in Albany and City Hall.

Download the rally flyer here to spread the word:

Call the Rally Hotline at 718-222-3796 x.248 for more information. Please be sure to dial the extension.
Time: Thursday, March 5 from 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Host: Shain Anderson
City Hall (New York, NY)
New York, NY 10007
If you know you can make it, sign up here and let the organizers know. It may be a Thursday afternoon, but a strong showing of people, who then call their Senators and tell their friends to do the same can make a huge difference.

See you there!

Yetta Kurland's Website To Hit Obama Levels

There may not be as much going on at anymore but that doesn't mean your organizing fun has to be over. City Council candidate Yetta Kurland is launching a site of her own, aptly named "" The webpage isn't just your standard politician's site. Sure, the "Volunteer" and "Contribute" buttons are over on the main page, but that is just the beginning for this challenger in the 3rd district.

Just like on Obama's social networking site, users can join groups, start events, invite friends and much, more more. When you are going up against the Speaker of the City Council, innovation and using that to spread your ideas is essential. Quinn has the backing of the Mayor and through her power, commands many different groups. However, if a challenger is dedicated like Yetta, anything is possible. Remember a couple years ago no one thought that the skinny Senator from Illinois could ever make it past the vaunted Hillary Clinton and now look at where we are.

Now I'm not suggesting that is going to propel her past Quinn. What I am saying is that when you are ready to do whatever it takes, come out with state of the art campaign tools and work hard, then there is a real chance of winning this thing. New York City is a big place, but the Council District is only a small part of it. With social networking capabilities and a strong message that resonates in the area, all the tricks Quinn has up her sleeve will not be enough.

Howard Dean Speaks About Sebelius As HHS Secretary

Always a man of character, Howard Dean is full of praises for Governor Sebelius becoming the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Of course this doesn't mean that Dean will just go away and do nothing. Expect plenty from him in the months and years to come as a staunch advocate of progressive issues.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Rove Believes Bush Did Enough For Hurricane Katrina Victims

If there was any defining event in Bush's eight years that showcased his utter failure as President, it was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The nation and the world watched as a city drowned, losing nearly two thousand residents due to ineffective levees, not the actual hurricane. The government response was a disaster. When seen through the ideological lens of movement conservatives (who wish for less government by starving it of resources) the response was a huge success. While that sounds awful, Karl Rove affirmed that callous opinion yesterday on live television.

From RawStory:

Don't be surprised if this causes you to spill your coffee. When pundits began to critique the recent speech of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ABC News green room on Sunday, former Bush adviser Karl Rove declared that the federal government met its responsibilities with regard to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

The following exchange appears on the video below at 2:11.

"With all due respect, the government official who was responsible for managing Katrina under the Stafford Act was the governor of Louisiana and she lost office in large measure due to the poor quality of her performance," Rove quipped.
To Rove, this was about politics, pure and simple. He doesn't mention how FEMA didn't have the funds or manpower to take care of thousands upon thousands of refugees. How the director of FEMA had no training in disaster management does not figure into the political calculus that Rove considers. Though if he really wants to talk about politics, can he tell us which party went on to lose resoundingly at the polls this past November and the midterm elections in 2006? Louisiana was sick of all their political leaders (save for Ray Nagin who talked a lot of serious shit) but the country was collectively disgusted with Bush and the neo-con ideology for which he...and McCain are associated with.

Reverend Billy Throws His Hat Into The Mayoral Ring

Several challengers to Mayor Bloomberg have already stepped up to defeat the two term King of New York. There's the Congressional member Anthony Weiner, City Comptroller Bill Thompson and progressively-minded Councilman Tony Avella. Though none of those three compare in terms of personality than the newest candidate on the block, Reverend Billy.

From The NY Times:

Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping is — to say the least — not your typical candidate for mayor. With his blond pompadour, cobalt blue suit, black shirt and white collar, he made his announcement in Union Square on Sunday accompanied by a choir in green robes.

But he has the nomination of an actual political party and might have a spot on the ballot in November, something Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has yet to secure.

“Even if you have 20 billion dollars, you’re not going to buy this election!” he shouted through a white bullhorn to a small gathering of supporters and reporters. “This campaign will be the revolt of the fabulous 500 neighborhoods, amen!”
Amen indeed!

Having Reverend Billy in the mix should definitely liven things up a bit. I don't believe that he'd be the only one to speak his mind (Tony Avella certainly has no problem with that) but his persona is most definitely unique. Not only that, the issues he speaks to carry great resonance with many New Yorkers. If he can connect them to what Bloomberg has done to the city in terms of development then who knows what will happen.

I'm sure that Bloomberg and the more "serious" contenders will protest the Reverend's candidacy and proclaim him as a side show. However, Billy does have that one thing that the Mayor still covets....a ballot line.

Joan Adams' Story Is The Story Of Our Nation

You may or may not be in the situation Joan Adams finds herself. Many Americans have not even had the chance to own a house. Yet just as Joan was taken advantage by the banking industry, all of us are being used to cover the damage caused by the widespread greed in the financial sector. Hundreds of billions have been given to these banks, yet when Obama wants to give a fraction of what they got to homeowners, they cry bloody murder.

Limbaugh Can't Tell Difference Between Constitution And Declaration Of Independence

The leader of the Republican party showed off his ignorance at CPAC this weekend when he talked about the Constitution. Not only did he mistake the Declaration of Independence for the Constitution, he completely misunderstood the intent of the framers and what we as a nation are allowed to do with the "living, breathing" document.

From ThinkProgress:

During his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, Rush Limbaugh got some of his loudest applause when he declared that President Obama’s policies represent a “bastardization of the Constitution.” He attempted to prove his devotion to the document by quoting from it:

We love and revere our founding documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. [Applause] We believe that the preamble to the Constitution contains an inarguable truth that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life. [Applause] Liberty, Freedom. [Applause] And the pursuit of happiness. [Applause] Those of you watching at home may wonder why this is being applauded. We conservatives think all three are under assault. [Applause]

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is a quote from the document 'heard round the world' on July 4th, 1776, not when the Constitution was written more than a decade later. Of course, the principles that our country was founded on don't mean much to Rush, since in his mind, the primacy of the General Will has been replaced by the particular will.

Yeah that's right, I used a little Rousseau on Rush. I'm sure the famous French theorist would have a field day with the likes of Limbaugh and his dittoheads.

Of course, dittoheads, Republicans, especially the types that attend CPAC pride themselves on being ignorant, so that their failed ideology can still live on in their narrow minds. Later on in the speech, Rush said that the Constitution does not need to be redefined, which would make most rational people wonder what he thinks of the twenty-seven amendments to the document. Items such as ending slavery, giving women the right to vote, for the people to be able to elect their Senators are all "redefinitions" of the Constitution.

As incompetent and irrational as he is, Rush is still the de facto leader of the GOP and yes, that is pretty sad.

NY-20: Republican Resurgence Can Only Happen By Dropping The "R"

Now don't get me wrong, to Republicans this race is extremely important, just as it is to Democrats. The top GOP leaders have no problem talking up the race in NY-20 to their most dedicated followers. Yet when it comes to swaying voters in New York's Capitol region to come back and support the Grand Old Party, the way they are going about it isn't as direct as a dyed-in-the-wool partisan would hope for.

From FireDogLake:

Did you notice in the ad where the man who's going to bring Republicans back mentioned which party he belonged to? Nah, me neither, despite the fact that there are 75k more Republicans than Democrats registered in the district he's hoping to win. Which is why it's a little bit odd that the candidate with the greatest name recognition (Mr. Tedisco is a Republican leader in the State Assembly) has halved his lead from a few weeks ago (the AP is calling it a competitive race now)

Or maybe not. Being a Republican is a bit of a problem for Mr. Tedisco these days:

The biggest political matchup in the country right now pits a seasoned Republican lawmaker against an unknown Democrat in one of New York’s most traditionally conservative Congressional districts. National Republican leaders have vowed to make the contest a turning point for their beleaguered party, while Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have signaled that they will not be doing any heavy lifting to help out.

All the makings of a Republican rout.

Yet now when layoffs, foreclosures and anxiety are freezing the Catskills, Adirondacks and Hudson Valley like an economic ice storm, a single issue — the $787 billion federal stimulus package — appears to be providing the Democratic newcomer, Scott Murphy, with some traction in the campaign to succeed Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand in the House of Representatives.

His Republican opponent, James N. Tedisco, the minority leader in the State Assembly, refuses to say how he would have voted on the stimulus bill.* To endorse it, Republican operatives acknowledge, would put him at odds with every House Republican and endanger his support from Washington.


Still, Mr. Tedisco’s advisers believe the election will come down to which candidate voters like more, pointing to the 2006 election, when voters chose the appealing Ms. Gillibrand over her Republican predecessor, John E. Sweeney.

So far the polls have Tedisco polling ahead of Murphy, but that is because people are just getting to know the Democratic candidate. The more he's out there, the better his ratings get. In the two weeks between the latest polls, he halved his opponent's lead. Tedisco is trying to hold onto that lead for the rest of the month by ignoring the controversy between the national parties and running on his name alone.

Even if he does manage to hold on, the GOP will scream and shout about their tangential victory over Obama, but that would be news to the voters that put him there. If anything, it shows that Murphy did not do as good a job campaigning in such a short amount of time. If Murphy inundates the district with ads, specifically with his name, "Democrat" and "endorsed by Gillibrand" then the Dems should be able to hold onto the seat.

No matter what the outcome though, a "Republican resurgence" or proof that the GOP can publicly repudiate Obama's agenda at the polls is not even close to becoming a reality. If the GOP tries to promote a victory as such, they are only deluding themselves of the political dynamic in the nation.

Karl Rove Gets A Smackdown!

There was no fear, only stone-cold resolution in the eyes of Katrina vanden Heuvel as she ripped Karl Rove for trying to talk about deficits when he was one of the principal players who put us in the economic mess are dealing with now.

In Lean Times, Paterson Shows Off His Expensive Taste

As the battle for the budget becomes more defined as we get closer to the deadline to finish it, Governor Paterson's leadership abilities have been called into question. He's been adamant against a Fair Tax and at times considered passing it. He was gung ho for the obesity tax and then said it was just to make a point about our general health. Oh and don't get me started on his Senate appointment fiasco. There are many things that Paterson needs to stay straight on and his leadership ability is affected by all of those. So when it comes to shaping the budget and calling for tough cuts across the board, he had best be able to show that he can do it for himself, especially when he should show discretion in using taxpayer funds on the Governor's Mansion that he lives in. For example, buy the $20 toaster, not the one for $200.

From The NY Daily News:

A review of the mansion's expenses found that in the weeks after Paterson took over in mid-March, staff bought hundreds of wine glasses, bedding, furniture and other items.

"These are authorized expenses that are associated with the operation, maintenance, preservation and the day-to-day functioning of the mansion," said Paul Larrabee, a spokesman for the state Office of General Services, which runs the mansion.

Taxpayers footed the bill for $61,951 in equipment and other costs for the mansion during the first nine months of Paterson's administration, a 14% increase from a year earlier under then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, OGS said.

Now you may say that he had done all this a year ago, before he even had time to consider the 2009-10 budget, but those were ominous times as well. Perhaps not $14 billion-in-the-hole bad, but certainly dire enough to consider not spending tens of thousands redecorating a mansion. I get that politicians like the perks of having their office, but they should know the office can be taken away in an election if they get too greedy.

NY Drug Law Reform On The Fast Track

Besides passing a budget, Governor Paterson is dead-set on reforming our state's regressive drug laws. Unlike his dilli-dallying on the budget, Paterson is clear on what he wants the Legislature to help him accomplish. Giving judges the authority to decide the best sentence for the convicted drug user is what he and many advocates of this reform want. It has been more than thirty long years that we as a state have overreacted in the legal sense to those that get caught using illicit substances and it is far past the time that we should correct the problem by working to treat people's problems, not exacerbate them by sticking as many of them in jail.

From The NY Times:

The Assembly is expected to pass legislation on Tuesday that would once again give judges the discretion to send those found guilty of having smaller amounts of illegal drugs to substance-abuse treatment instead of prison and allow thousands of inmates convicted of nonviolent drug offenses to apply to have their sentences reduced or commuted.

Meanwhile, the governor’s office is preparing legislation that it plans to present to Senate leaders on Monday that would also give judges discretion in sentencing, according to a senior administration official involved in drafting the bills. But for now, the governor is not taking a position on whether sentences should be reduced for some prisoners.

For its part, the Senate is expected to take up legislation in the coming weeks that would also be aimed at strengthening judges’ roles in sentencing.
And it can all happen by the beginning of April if the language is inserted into the budget. As the Times tells the story of Paterson being arrested for protesting in front of Pataki's office not too many years ago, it is an important issue to the Governor and admirable goal. To see him accomplish it will be great to see. Not only will it be a victory against the powerful prison lobby, but an intelligent way of turning the "drug war" into a more caring system where society treats those with drug problems instead of throwing them into a penitentary.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Gates: Obama Thinks More Than Bush

David Gregory had Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Meet the Press this morning. One question he had to ask, as his interviewee has now worked for Presidents #43 and #44, is what differences there are between the two men. So how do you say one is more intelligent and thoughtful than the other in the nicest way possible?

That's how.

The Problem With Our TeePee

I thought about leaving the puns aside, but this is a sensitive subject. Toilet paper is serious business and comfort is king of many Americans' "thrones". One-ply, two-ply, three-ply, paper with lotion, with aloe and a stuffed teddy bear are a part of our culture as is baseball and apple pie. Of course, we talk more in public about baseball and dessert more than we do about wiping our behinds.

That means it has been hard for the green revolution in this country to permeate the toilet paper market. Yet environmental advocates must wipe away misconceptions about the issue and confront what those few seconds of softness means to our forests and ultimately the health of our planet.

From The Guardian:

"This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council.

"Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution." Making toilet paper has a significant impact because of chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests.

A campaign by Greenpeace seeks to raise consciousness among Americans about the environmental costs of their toilet habits and counter an aggressive new push by the paper industry giants to market so-called luxury brands.

More than 98% of the toilet roll sold in America comes from virgin forests, said Hershkowitz. In Europe and Latin America, up to 40% of toilet paper comes from recycled products. Greenpeace this week launched a cut-out-and-keep ecological ranking of toilet paper products.

Now those are some scary statistics. Just as we Americans have wised up about fuel-efficiency, recycling and conservation in other areas, it is time to do the same for toilet paper rolls. The industry will complain but in the end, if we as consumers demand change, so will the suppliers. So spread the word and buy recycled.