Friday, March 13, 2009

Center For Constitutional Rights Blasts Leahy's "Whitewash" Commission

Senator Patrick Leahy got a stinging rebuke from Michael Ratner at the Center for Constitutional Rights yesterday. Ratner's fear, which is shared by many, is that the Truth Commission that the Senator wants to go through is nothing a "whitewash" and will only provide an easy way for criminals within the Bush Administration, including Bush himself. Ratner is pissed and you know what, so am I.

From RawStory:

"We’re talking about a whitewash with Leahy. Are we some Latin American country where we don’t have a democracy robust enough to try people?" Ratner said. “[Leahy’s] essentially diffusing the issue so there’s not as much pressure on prosecution. It’s not really going to go far. [The commission is] going to divert us for a few years and we’re never going to see something come out of it.”

Ratner said he and the Center for Constitutional Rights want to see criminal prosecutions of officials at the highest level of the Bush administration, the so-called “principals” who were the architects of controversial polices and signed off on them.

“Cheney has openly said that he approved the water boarding memo and that he would do it again,” Ratner said, adding, “My view is you absolutely have to have prosecutions to have deterrents [for future executive power abuses].”
Ratner is right. Our democratic (notice the small d) soundness is at stake here and Leahy is about to show that we don't have much of those principles behind what we claim to be. Now Leahy has been talking tough and that "nothing should be swept under the rug" but this Commission is exactly what that will do. If we want to get to the bottom of what happened, then what we need is a Judge and Jury.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sen. Marcellino Sports A Spitzer Joke On The Senate Floor

Carl Marcellino is a funny guy, even when standing on the floor of the State Senate. As Philip at TAP said, he goes there:

Can you guess that some people might not have been too happy about that?

Citigroup Still Fighting Against The People Who Bailed Them Out

The big financial news on Tuesday was that Citigroup has turned themselves around after their stock price went from ninety-seven cents to a buck and a quarter due to better earnings this quarter. So what if it used to be at $60.00? So what if the country bailed them out to the tune of $20 billion? For the here and now, the megalithic bank is profitable, three cheers for the bank!

For the executives at Citigroup, it makes it easier to forget about the taxpayer's assistance so that you can turn around and knife them in the back over EFCA:

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reports that “embattled financial giant Citigroup Inc., which has received at least $50 billion in federal bailout funds, hosted a private conference call on Wednesday to build opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act.” On Tuesday, Citigroup downgraded its rating of Wal-Mart from buy to hold, citing fears that EFCA could pass. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said earlier this week that “fierce resistance from Republicans and business groups could force him to delay action” on the measure.
Republicans are putting up fierce resistance? Is Citigroup's stock advice about WalMart is supposed to scare the rest of us into forgetting about the unions and Democrats in general that want this bill to pass?

Hello Harry Reid!!! Republicans lost the election by a ridiculous margin. Citigroup indebtted to us. We owe them nothing! Nothing damnit!

Elections have consequences and now is the time to prove it. Unions are what have made this country strong and given workers the rights they have today. If it were up to Citigroup, we'd have labor conditions that mirrored the Gilded Age, where workers toiled for 60 hours a week with no breaks. There is no reason on Earth why we should give into what they are plotting and on top of that, there is no reason they should be plotting anything to begin with, since they are using our money.

Now grow a spine Senator Reid and get this bill through the Senate!

Voters Starting To Get Sick Of Tedisco...And His Ads

Despite the short period of time for the NY-20 special election, a well known somewhat-local politician has gone from being the strong favorite to the race being a toss-up. Jim Tedisco wanted to break free from his Minority Leader status in Albany and join the dwindling ranks of the minority party down in Congress but now things aren't looking so good for him. With less than two months to campaign Tedisco should have wrapped up the race easily, especially against a challenger who started out with zero name recognition. Then the non-answer answer to the stimulus bill happened and it all went south from there.

Oh and those ads he's running aren't helping either:

ALBANY—Way down in the data in today's poll on the 20th Congressional race is an indication that Republican candidate Jim Tedisco's advertising is actually hurting him.

Of those people who had seen ads "on behalf" of Tedisco, the survey finds, 28 percent were less likely to vote for him as a result, compared to 12 who became more likely. For Murphy, 28 percent became more likely as opposed to 20 percent who were less likely. (For both candidates, the majority of those surveyed said the ads had no effect.)[...]

I asked one elected Republican from the district why this was the case. The person noted that Tedisco has always been a better foil than a person out front.

"It was over when he went negative," the elected Republican said. "When you get negative, it shows you've got nothing left."

What that anonymous elected Republican left out was that there was nothing there for Tedisco to start with. He's just another ethically-challenged Albany politician that enjoys the perks of office without offering anything of substance to the people that elect him. Perhaps that's why when it comes to replacing Kristen Gillibrand, the 20th District is beginning to realize that Scott Murphy is the one who will represent them, as opposed to Tedisco who would merely represent himself.

Obama's Message To The States Concerning The Stimulus Bill

Now that the money from H.R. 1 is ready to go out, the President has a warning for governors and state legislatures across the country. Spend the money wisely by putting people to work with it. A smart message no doubt, but the President should heed another message from an equally smart man; get a comprehensive and a well-written stimulus bill on the drawing board and out to the people ASAP.

Rep. Sherman Calls Limbaugh A Coward, Demands To Debate

Rush Limbaugh thought he was hot stuff when he tried challenging President Obama to come on his show to talk about the issues of the day. Of course, since Obama is President, his priorities include things like the economic crisis, dealing with Congress and fixing all the other problems created under eight years of George Bush. Talking to Rush Limbaugh is incredibly low on that list, if it's there at all.

Being the good Democratic Congressmember that Brad Sherman (CA-27) is, he has willingly stepped up to take Obama's seat and debate the hatemonger radio personality himself. Rush hasn't responded to Brad's requests, so he has written Mr. Limbaughg an open letter. A letter I might say that doesn't pull any punches.

From The Huffington Post:

"If you had any confidence in your position, you would agree to my request to have me on your show--where I'm sure I could demonstrate the merits of my views," he wrote.

"You are a coward," he assessed. "Very truly yours, Brad Sherman."

Limbaugh has yet to respond, said a spokesman for Sherman. Limbaugh's producer, Kit Carson, told the Huffington Post he hadn't seen the letter, but that he couldn't speak for Limbaugh. The radio talk-show host, who Democrats portray as the leader of the GOP, is taking the next two days off, said Carson, and will return Monday.

Rush can return whenever he wants, but being able to actually take on Brad Sherman when it comes to finance is a losing proposition. As a former intern of the Congressman, I can tell you that I've seen that degree from Harvard Law and that he knows his stuff in the field. Oh and he isn't just any lawyer, he's a tax attorney, one of the toughest fields to go into (not that it doesn't pay of course). Rush on the other hand, is a right-wing blowhard who relies on malicious lies, fear and innuendo to bully his opponents. Thinking that this debate would be a fair fight is a joke and Rush knows it.

The Three Men Return To Their Room

Just when I had a chance to praise for Paterson for standing with his party, I have to criticize him yet again. This time it is to call him out for forgetting about his past appeals for reform. Paterson was all about cleaning up Albany's corrupt, bad-government ways when he was a Senator, but now he is just another part of the problem.

From The Poughkeepsie Journal:

ALBANY — Legislative leaders and Gov. David Paterson said today they have agreed to try to bypass required public conference committees on the state budget in favor of hashing out a budget deal among themselves, leading government watchdogs to complain that the public is being shut out of a process involving billions of taxpayers’ dollars. “I think the important thing for us in this time of crisis is to give certainty to New Yorkers,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, in defending the decision. “So at this point, we and the governor have agreed that we want to look at the end result and avoid the bickering that takes place with one-house budgets if we can.”

Not holding the committees not only violate a 2007 law meant to open up the process, it also is “incredibly insensitive” to make the decision on the eve of “Sunshine Week,” said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

“Is this the way the Democrats want to celebrate Sunshine Week? With secret meetings? That’s a bad idea,” Horner said. Sunshine Week, which starts Sunday, is an effort by newspapers around the country to promote open government. It started in 2002.

Not much has changed since 2002 and no one who is in a position to immediately effect change wants to do it. I never had faith in Silver, but there was just a bit for Paterson and Smith. Now there is none. Effecting change is still a battle for the people to fight and one that must be taken against people like Paterson, Smith and Silver. At some point, those in power are going to have to learn that when it comes to the health of our democracy, transparency trumps expediency, or else the government will continue to distance itself from meeting the needs of all the people, not just those that have the most lobbyists in Albany.

Keep This In Mind When Jim Cramer Goes On The Daily Show Tonight

Despite all the hype, tonight's face to face "battle" between Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer will not be as big as the networks make it out to be. In fact, Stewart said as much on the show last night. What Cramer will do is try to play down his tips and that people shouldn't just buy and sell based on what he says.

I agree 100%, you should never take advice from someone that brazenly likes to break the law simply because he knows that the regulators won't or do not know how to enforce those laws. Jim Cramer is a crook, and he admits in this video:

Wherefore Art Thou Congressman Weiner?

Since the news of the term limits extension bill died down, so has the energy of Congressman Weiner's will to be mayor of New York City. I remember him being at City Hall every single day and now we hardly ever see him out in public unless it's in D.C. People were beginning to wonder whether he was still running (technically he hadn't declared but it was quite obvious what his intention was late last year).

I guess know we have a better idea of where he's at:

In a statement to supporters, Weiner wrote: "At the beginning of the summer when Congress takes a break, I will look at the lay of the land again and try to determine the best political course."

A Weiner campaign adviser said afterward that nothing has really changed on their end, since the letter to supporters echoes what Weiner has been saying publicly for months.

But it did seem to be part of an incremental retreat.

Yes, yes it does seem that way.

One less candidate in the race spells bad news for Bloomberg and good news for Thompson, who has been out and about, vigorously campaigning for mayor. Likewise, Weiner's departure would be good news for Tony Avella, since this would make the primary a two-way race and not with him on the side of the Congressman and the Controller.

At Least The Governor Remembers What Party He's In

Governor David Paterson's poll numbers have dropped precipitously since he took over the job a year ago. At first his realistic but brutal outlook for the state's finances was applauded, but everything he's done since that has drawn ire from the people. The Senate appointment put him on the decline and then his lack of leadership within his own office sank him further. He's been against (then for, then against, and on it goes) for delivering on his message of shared sacrifice by including the rich. His latest mishap was to water down the Rockefeller drug law reform bill to appease Republicans. With all those facts against him, at least he can still say that he stands behind his party for the 2009 elections.

From The Daily Politics:

Gov. David Paterson told WNBC's Melissa Russo today that he won't back Mayor Bloomberg's bid for a third term, although he thinks the mayor has done a "fine job."

I am the leader of the Democratic Party in New York State and there are a lot of good candidates thinking about running, and I would expect I'll support the winner of that Democratic primary.
I don't know about being the "leader," but he's definitely with us electorally-speaking. Not endorsing Republican line-chasing, uber-billionaire Michael Bloomberg is a good start. Perhaps at some point he can try and remember to connect that idea with policies that actually reflect the party's core principles. Or not. 2010 is right around the corner.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ed Schultz Speaks Out For EFCA

Big Ed joins the chorus of left-leaning media personalities and wholeheartedly endorses the Employee Free Choice Act. He's been for this stuff all along, but now is the time to take a strong stand on the issue as it is now in front of Congress.

The Cramer V. Stewart Battle Continues

After Jon Stewart had dropped the F-Bomb on Jim Cramer for a second time on Monday night, Cramer decided to respond the next morning. He complained to the Today Show, Mornin' Joe and had MSNBC reporting on it to show Stewart as picking on poor, defenseless Cramer. The synergistic retaliation was something that the NBC empire was able to pull off for one of their own. Of course, Stewart loves the attention, and continued the feud last night.

From The Hartford Courant:

Yet another night on "The Daily Show" Tuesday was focused on what CNBC's Cramer said in his defense, this time on a variety of NBC related properties, from NBC's "Today" show to MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

And Stewart fired back by using some of the other Viacom properties -- appearing to talk about his situation on shows from Nickelodeon's "Dora the Explorer" to MTV's "The Hills."

It was just the kind of clips that the NBC shows will pick up one more time and try to get some kind of reaction from Cramer, who might as well admit that on more than one occasion, he may have been a little too bullish on Bear Stearns in the weeks before its collapse.

Stewart says he doesn't know much about what the market will do either, but at least he doesn't promote himself as all-knowing, as Cramer often is on CNBC, where one promo subs him in for God, declaring "In Cramer We Trust."

Stewart destroyed Cramer yet again, and added Scarborough in for his pithy pejorative attacks. Comedians are supposed to entertain and sometimes enlighten through their humor. Stewart does that with his eyes closed and hands tied behind his back. Now this is great for NBC and Viacom, as a feud always attracts more viewers for both sides, especially when Cramer goes on the Daily Show tomorrow night. While their ad revenues may spike, I hope that what comes out of that is a rise in awareness among the people that CNBC is full of useless hacks.

All Aboard The Trash Train!

One of the best things about Mayor Bloomberg in my view was his PlaNYC initiatives. It was a bold program and although not as much of it has been implemented, the overreaching goal is sound. One part of the PlaNYC is to make our garbage more eco-friendly. While much of that is done by citizens not wasting as much, the way we haul the refuse must also be taken into consideration. Using trains instead of trucks to dump garbage is a smart idea, especially when your destination is in Virginia.

From NY1:

With the sound of a bell, dozens of tractor trailers are off the city's streets. From now on, 950 tons of garbage created by North Brooklyn residents will be taken daily by trains, not trucks, to a landfill in Virginia.

It's a move, Mayor Michael Bloomberg estimates, will eliminate 40 tractor trailer trips each day, a total of 13,000 each year.

"It's not only going to help reduce congestion on the borough's streets and highways, it's going to improve the air in neighborhoods that have been unjustly saddled with the responsibility of handling people's waste," said Bloomberg.

Making neighborhoods responsible for their own trash is the cornerstone of the mayor's solid waste management plan.
That means his own borough, my borough and everyone else in Manhattan has to have their trash taken care of. Not that we have to literally take our trash bags to a barge, but the county government has to set up transfer stations like that in North Brooklyn. Getting those tractor-trailers off the highways is essential for the environment. Whether or not each borough should take care of their own is the best way is up for debate, but somehow it has to get done.

As Tedisco Does A Two-Step, Murphy Reduces Jimmy's Lead To Seven

In such a short time to campaign, well known Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco was heavily favored to beat newcomer Scott Murphy. However, Jim hasn't been able to keep it together and thanks to several mishaps his lead has gone from more than twenty points to twelve and now to seven. With less than three weeks before election day, at the rate this race is going Tedisco is starting to run scared. Perhaps that's why he's looking like this:

Fair Share Tax Effort Needs Your Help Now!

The chances of the state budget having a fair share tax added to it just diminished last night when the Senate met last night. Malcolm Smith has apparently decided to go with more cuts and no tax increases for the wealthy despite a large contingent of Democrats supporting the Fair Share plan. Instead, it looks like the Majority Leader is more comfortable siding with a few in his caucus and the Republican side of the aisle instead of what the people voted for overwhelmingly in the November elections. With that, the unions and all those that support less cuts to the budget are reaching out to us so that the Senate is inundated with messages to support a tax increase on the wealthy as opposed to more burdens placed on the working class.

From The Times-Union:

We need your urgent help!
The New York State Senate is about to vote on a budget bill that would make devastating cuts to important services our state’s families and children rely on — services like education, health care, and community services.
There’s still time to keep these cuts from happening. But we’re down to the wire and need your help to tell Democratic state senators to speak out against these cuts. It will only hurt our communities during a time when New Yorkers need to rely on services more than ever.
Please take a moment to write your state senator and urge them to support a fair solution to the budget crisis — Fair Share Tax Reform:
This solution would ask our state’s wealthiest taxpayers to contribute their fair share to close the state’s budget gap — so that our state’s working families don’t have to bear the brunt of the burden.
We need additional revenue to help close the state’s $14 billion budget gap — not cuts that would hurt everyone.
Write your senator now:
Thank you so much for your urgent help.
In solidarity,
George Gresham
President, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

As the article by Irene Jay Liu prefacing the letter states, what the Senate decides on tomorrow isn't binding, but it does set the general direction of how they want the budget to look. The important thing to note here is that if both the Assembly and the Senate have some form of tax increase on the wealthy, the compromise will look a lot better than if one chamber has only cuts and the other has the increase. So get to the Fair Share website and then call and/or email your Senator so we get a budget that is fair to all New Yorkers.

No Confidence In Steele, No Confidence In The Party

The latest word about Michael Steele is that he is about to go down. Apparently the party apparatus is going to hold a No Confidence vote after the NY-20 special election. The hip-hopping Chairman of the RNC has ruffled one too many feather in the Grand Old Party and his show is about to come to a close.

From Political Wire:

Republican insiders tell Political Wire that a no confidence vote on RNC Chairman Michael Steele is likely to be called after the NY-20 special election on March 31 -- regardless of whether Republicans win the seat or not.

Katon Dawson, who came in second in the January RNC vote, is said to be quietly organizing a vote and is getting the support of several state party chairmen who want to dump Steele.
So the whole "put up a minority thing to make us look diverse" thing is over. From a political standpoint, this is the smartest thing Republicans can do to avoid the almost daily embarrassment displayed by Steele. They certainly have no confidence in him to pull the party from it's dark hour. Yet really, who the hell can? If Katon Dawson replaces him, then at least we'll get to see the GOP for what they really are, a whites-only country club kind of place where minorities are tokens meant for display only.

As for the rest of the American people who are not Republican (approximately 70% of the country), there is almost no confidence not only in Steele, but the party itself. As they said it themselves, the GOP isn't going to put out new ideas, only to attempt to stall the bold plans of the Democratic party. With that attitude, their Chairman could be Chuck Norris or a moderate Republican someone that isn't completely batshit crazy, you can only excite a small percentage of people when your core beliefs simply consist of fighting Democrats and not presenting a way forward for all Americans, regardless of party.

Not Your Typical NYC Subway Ad

This comes from a Gothamist reader, who seems to have found elements of a guerrilla marketing campaign from the underground aiming straight for the Governor's "shared sacrifice" meme and the looming fare hikes and service cuts brought to you by the M.T.A./Governor/State Senate.

Job well done, whoever you are!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Madoff Gets Life In Plea Deal

Although there are many crooks on Wall Street and in the financial services industry as a whole, if there is a public enemy number one it would be Bernie Madoff. Madoff had run the largest ponzi scheme of all time and was only caught years after he had begun perpetrating his massive fraudlent scheme. Thanks to an inept, lazy and possibly complicit SEC, the lives of thousands, along with the beneficiaries of many non-profits, have been ruined. This afternoon the criminal mastermind made a plea deal where he gets life in prison.

From The NY Times:

Update | 4:14 p.m. Lawyers said in a court hearing on Tuesday that Bernard L. Madoff, the disgraced financier accused of running the largest Ponzi scheme in history, would plead guilty to charges that would result in a life sentence.

The news came during a hearing in which Mr. Madoff said he would retain his current lawyer despite conflicts of interest. That lawyer, Ira Lee Sorkin, confirmed that Mr. Madoff was expected to plead guilty. No plea agreement was presented on Tuesday.[...]

In their letter to Mr. Sorkin outlining the calculations on which they based the estimate of the sentencing guidelines, prosecutors said they intend to seek criminal forfeiture of $170 billion. That figure represents the proceeds traceable to the charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and theft from an employee benefit fund. The government said it would also seek nearly $800 million in forfeiture of property involved in the money laundering charges.

The first thing that comes to mind is....why would he take a plea that results in him going to jail for the rest of his life? Were the waves of built-up remorse, held in for so many years, suddenly unleashed over his soul, so that he must atone for his sins to save his soul? I doubt it. Though I have another idea in mind.

Martin Luther King once said that, "One who condones evils is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it." What fate Bernie is trying to avoid is still up for debate, but there must be a reason why this case won't go to trial. All the details that would come out in discovery, the trial and everything else might just expose more than what Bernie did by himself. No matter how smart Mr. Madoff is, there is no way on Earth that he could have gotten away with such a scheme for so long without some degree of assistance from an outside party. Whether that help came from the SEC, some other government agency or seems quite likely that those that condoned Mr. Madoff's crime for years on end are getting off scot free.

Brooklyn Paper Submits To The NewsCorp Empire

Rupert Murdoch has been trying to get his filthy rich hands on the New York Times for a while, but for today he'll settle for the illustrious Brooklyn Paper. The long-time independent newspaper has decided to give in to the world-wide NewsCorp empire after 31 years of going it alone. They'll continue to publish of course but the city and specifically the borough has lost one more voice in the community.

From PolitickerNY:

The Brooklyn Paper's editor (and onetime Observer profile subject) Gersh Kuntzman and its publisher Celia Weintrob confirmed the news.

"We're very excited," said Mr. Kuntzman in an interview.

He said that he has not yet spoken to Mr. Murdoch, but he has had conversations with people from News Corp.

"They don’t want the product to change," said Mr. Kuntzman. "And they love the product. And the product is fantastic."

Kuntzman sounds so ecstatic about the deal, I can feel the sincerity in his quote all the way over here on the Upper West Side. The truth of the matter is, this is Rupert Murdoch we are talking about here. The purveyor of Fox News, the Post and dozens, if not hundreds of media outlets around the world has a distinct view of the world and like the Hearst of old, intends to make sure that vision is replicated throughout his empire. The Brooklyn Paper can claim they'll stay the same, but that line has been heard too many times before when an indy gets bought out by the big boys.

Rachel Maddow Breaks Down The Employee Free Choice Act In Three Minutes

The case for EFCA could be made even quicker than three minutes but Rachel's style fleshes out all the details of the legislation. She also critiques the Republican falsehoods made about the bill, making John McCain, John Boehner and the rest of the GOP look like the anti-worker politicians that they are.

Debate Over How NYC Should Vote Ignores The Internet

Following the 2000 Presidential election, government officials were desperate to get rid of hanging chads and butterfly ballots as quick as they could. Moving as quick as they could, Congress came up with HAVA and more problems were created than solved. Touchscreen ballots and the corporations that build them have called the validity of elections into question. Now in 2009 there is a lot of hesitation to switch from the old lever machines to touchscreens. Yet one way to move into the 21st century has alluded those with a love affair with the old clunkers.

Why not try the Internet? Off the bat it sounds even worse than the touchscreens but this could be the answer to our voter-integrity prayers. Even the Board of Education here in New York City thinks so:

New York City is about to embark on an historic and pioneering expedition in the Internet age. The first ever Internet election held completely online, is about to take place in our great city. Held by the Board of Education, it is the election that will determine who will have a voice in the future of our children’s education here in New York.

In this groundbreaking effort, New York City public school parents will vote online to elect over 300 of their peers to serve in parental advisory boards throughout NYC school districts, representing the needs of their children and communities. The Community and Citywide Education Council (CEC) elections will be held in April and the candidate application deadline is March 14. Unless significant steps are taken by community activists like yourself to spread the word and recruit candidates, a number of schools and neighborhoods across New York may go unrepresented.

The history of Internet voting is short. In March of 2000 the Arizona Democratic Party held the first binding primary election that allowed voters the choice of casting a legal vote over the Internet. It was used again in 2004 when the Federal voting assistance program (through the SERVE initiative) allowed Uniformed Services Members and US citizens living overseas to vote online from anywhere in the world.
If the Internet can bring Power to the Parents, why can't it be so for the rest of the city and the entirety of New York. If the method works, we'd be a model for the rest of the country just as we once were when the lever machine was state-of-the-art. The Board of Elections should closely monitor the Internet voting set to take place next month and seriously consider it for their own use as soon as possible. As ChangeNYC notes, this could be a huge moment for grassroots democracy if it goes through.

Shelly Continues To Make Malcolm Look Foolish Over MTA Bailout

Being Malcolm Smith must be tough these days. The man was thrust (willingly I might add) into a position of leadership that he wasn't quite ready to handle. His abilities were already in question before the Dems took power. Then his credibility was further damaged when he gave into the Gang of Three, then stood up to them, then sat back down. Now the budget battle and the connected M.T.A. bailout saga is consuming him and in comparison to Shelly Silver's tight ship in the Assembly, he looks like an amateur.

From PolitickerNY:

ALBANY—Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith is calling the March 25 deadline for the M.T.A. bailout "questionable" and saying that while his members are "working on it every day" there is no consensus on a package to address the authority's deficit.

A few reporters caught Smith on the way to an event on reforming Rockefeller drug laws. He didn't say why he is questioning March 25, but spokesman Austin Shafran said the deadline is "artificial because it came from the M.T.A. board."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, however, after speaking at the same event, said "I'm not going to engage in a game of chicken."

Silver said March 25 is a "hard and fast deadline." He then pointed out that he has put forth the "only proposal on the table."

That is quite a rebuke of the State Senate Majority Leader's talking points. Of course, Silver has had this job forever and with a much more solid majority, so that makes things easier. Still, Smith has not done himself any favors in the last few months when it comes to a test of wills and principles. If he would have held firm with the Gang of Three Three Amigos at the end of last year, perhaps Smith wouldn't have to beg the five Democratic Senators who are causing him trouble to stay in his corner for this. Instead, he has to make excuses such as belittling the deadline...excuses that no one is really buying.

Jon Stewart Gets Specific For CNBC's Jim Cramer

After last week's scathing segment focusing on Rick Santelli and CNBC, Jim Cramer had responded that Stewart had misconstrued what he had said about Bear Stearns. So last night Jon Stewart apologized, corrected the record...and then some.

Gotbaum Goes HuffPost, Comparing Bloomberg To Anti-Stimulus Governors

Michael Bloomberg is certainly not on the top of my list of favorite elected officials, but I hadn't thought of comparing him to the ilk that Republican Governors Sanford and Jindal are. Now thanks to a Huffington Post article written by the generally laid-back NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, I've got good reason to call out the Mayor not only for his bad leadership and power plays, but for putting stipulations on Federal assistance that our city desperately needs.

From The Huffington Post:

President Obama's stimulus package is expected to bring billions of dollars into New York City at a time when we desperately need it. Included in this package is a provision that will suspend the limit on how long able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDS) can receive food stamps through September 30, 2010 -- it is a provision designed to address hunger during a time of high unemployment. However, we recently learned that Mayor Bloomberg has refused to accept the provision without conditions, a decision that could cause the city to miss out on millions in federal funds for the local economy.

This is nothing new for Mayor Bloomberg: New York City, as a locality with high unemployment, had previously been eligible for a waiver to extend the time limits, but despite the urging of myself, other elected officials, and hunger advocates -- and even the advice of his own appointees -- the mayor has never accepted the ABAWD waiver.

Mayor Bloomberg refuses to extend federally funded benefits to hungry, out-of-work New Yorkers while they look for jobs, but when it comes to another group of able-bodied adults -- his friends in the financial sector -- he isn't so strict. He has announced that he is willing to spend millions of dollars in city money to retrain and support former financial services workers.

It isn't news that Bloomberg is out of touch with people who make less than a mid-six figure salary, but this adds more fuel to the fire. It is a cruel act of a man engorged with power and money that would deny the lengthening of food stamps to those that are barely getting by. If New Yorkers want a mayor that cares about the non-millionaires, electing someone other than Bloomberg is a necessary choice.

Cheers to Betsy Gotbaum for writing this and bringing attention to our heartless mayor. When she wants to, she is definitely able to step up and be a worthy advocate of the people. Her message to go around Mr. Scrooge the mayor is also a smart idea.

We're Killing Off Our Oceans

Sadly, there are still quite a few members of our society that can not possibly fathom that there's a connection between the chemicals we put in the air and the ocean/landmass/atmosphere that takes them in. Perhaps these global warming deniers never learned that Earth is pretty much a closed system (save for the energy of the sun and interstellar material that bombards us daily). Not everyone makes it to science class I guess. No matter how far from the facts they are, the reality of what we are doing to the planet is still ongoing. The latest report from the scientific community concerns the oceans and it isn't pretty, it's actually downright deadly.

From The Guardian:

Human pollution is turning the seas into acid so quickly that the coming decades will recreate conditions not seen on Earth since the time of the dinosaurs, scientists will warn today.

The rapid acidification is caused by the massive amounts of carbon dioxide belched from chimneys and exhausts that dissolve in the ocean. The chemical change is placing "unprecedented" pressure on marine life such as shellfish and lobsters and could cause widespread extinctions, the experts say.

The study, by scientists at Bristol University, will be presented at a special three-day summit of climate scientists in Copenhagen, which opens today. The conference is intended to update the science of global warming and to shock politicians into taking action on carbon emissions.

The increasing change in pH will decimate the oceans. Scientists believe that just another 0.2 drop will bring mass extinctions that haven't occurred in 65 million years. As the article states, it isn't the change in pH levels that scare them the most, it is the politicians who refuse to take substantive action in order to reduce our carbon outputs. Al Gore does a lot of great work, but he cannot shift our nation's energy policy in a quick and dramatic fashion that our Congress and President can.

The problem though, is that we have so many other problems that distract us from taking bold action. Obama is consumed by the fiscal crisis George Bush left him and shifting the direction of the economy is a monumental task in of itself. Yet even if we keep our focus solely on the economy, the oceans will increase in acidity whether or not we make carbon reductions a national...and international priority.

Tedisco: All Tricks, No Governing Ability

The DCCC has a new, devastating ad running up in the 20th district against Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco. The only think Jim has learned how to do after more than 20 years in Albany is how to take credit for things he hasn't done and how not to make decisions on important legislation. He's a skilled politician alright, but not the kind New Yorkers want in Congress.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Frightening Attitudes Of The Catholic Church

I know that progress comes slowly to the Catholic Church, but what is going on in Brazil right now is just absolutely horrific. How you can excommunicate a mother trying to protect the health of her daughter and the doctors that performed an abortion for a nine year old girl is ridiculous, especially when the rapist, the girl's stepfather is let off the hook by the church. When it comes to questions of sin, the Vatican's endorsement of their Brazilian leadership is completely out of whack. Thankfully there are more rational people down there that are trying to deal with the outrageous behavior of the church.

From Yahoo News:

"God's law is above any human law. So when a human law ... is contrary to God's law, this human law has no value," Cardoso had said.

He also said the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the church. Although the man allegedly committed "a heinous crime ... the abortion - the elimination of an innocent life - was more serious".

Battista Re agreed, saying: "Excommunication for those who carried out the abortion is just" as a pregnancy termination always meant ending an innocent life.

The case has sparked fierce debate in Brazil, where abortion is illegal except in cases of rape or if the woman's health is in danger.

On Friday, President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva hit out at Sobrinho's decision, saying: "As a Christian and a Catholic, I deeply regret that a bishop of the Catholic church has such a conservative attitude."

"The doctors did what had to be done: save the life of a girl of nine years old," he said, adding that "in this case, the medical profession was more right than the church."

One of the doctors involved in the abortion, Rivaldo Albuquerque, told Globo television that he would keep going to mass, regardless of the archbishop's order.

"The people want a church full of forgiveness, love and mercy," he said.

I am glad to see that da Silva and at least one of the excommunicated doctors are not taking this sitting down. Cardoso's statement up above, that God's law is above any human law is seriously misplaced. Obviously the Archbishop has no clue as to what "God's law" is, or else he would have at least an ounce of compassion for the young girl. God's law would in no way endanger the life of an innocent nine year old and neither would any law made by rational men, a group that these clergymen clearly do not belong in.

Term Limits To Be Addressed By The State Senate Tomorrow

When the City Council passed the term limits extension bill last year there were immediate cries to have it struck down from up above. So far the legal challenge has been stymied but the legislative challenge has not. In the State Assembly the process is moving slowly but surely and in the Senate the bill is going to be addressed by the Elections Committee tomorrow. Jimmy Vielkind has his reservations about it though:

ALBANY—A bill requiring a referendum on term limits will be heard in a Senate committee tomorrow, but won't necessarily get any farther.

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for State Senator Malcolm Smith, said it will be heard during a meeting of the Elections Committee, and then placed on the calendar. From there, it could sit for months.

State Senator Kevin Parker, the bill's sponsor, said in a Capitol hallway that he is confident it will clear committee and he will hold public hearings on the legislation.

"One game at a time," he said.

Of course legislative recourse is unlikely and I am extremely hesitant to say that the bill will pass. Most likely Bloomberg will have to be kicked out of power at the ballot box in November. However, if there is enough pressure put on Senators by their constituents, the speed of the bill can quicken. Smith may not have taken a position on the bill yet but considering the Majority Leader's power or lack thereof these days, it might not take much to knock him over onto the side that wants the power given back to the people of NYC.

What Lifting The Ban On Stem Cell Means To Us

Today was a big day for science, coming out from the dark chambers of ignorance that the Bush Administration thrust it into. Lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research may irk members of the GOP (such as Eric Cantor) but for many Americans that suffer from potentially curable diseases, the effect of this Presidential action is one that could change their life completely...for the better.

Weiner Steps In To Offer His Own MTA Bailout Plan

With Majority Leader Smith unable to get a bailout passed in his divided Senate, others are trying to make it work in his place. Smith's leadership skills are practically non-existent and the most we get out of him are half-hearted excuses. So what better time is it for the half-hearted mayoral candidate and full-time Congressman, Anthony Weiner to come back and grace New Yorkers with his presence. Weiner isn't just back to talk though, he's got a plan that could do the job that Smith is unable to get done.

From the NYT Cityroom:

Representative Anthony D. Weiner on Monday released his version of a rescue plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in which tolls on the East River and Harlem River bridges that would be paid only by people who do not live in New York City.

Mr. Weiner, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Queens and Brooklyn, and who is is planning to run for mayor in November, has long been an opponent of putting tolls on bridges where they don’t already exist.

But he said on Monday that making new tolls — which he would set at $4.15 — payable only by non-city residents would be a compromise that could gain traction in Albany and would be a bit like reviving the commuter tax, which was eliminated 10 years ago.

He predicted the tolls would raise $391 million a year.
While it is still a change in position for Congressman Weiner to put tolls on the bridges in any form, it is more amenable to the Senators that represent city dwellers that have to cross those East River bridges each day. In politics, compromise is the name of the game (except for the Republican party that wastes space in Congress) and Weiner is willing to move if it fixes the budget gap and keeps fares from going higher. If the idea gains traction with reticent State Senators, the plan will definitely earn him points if he ever decides to start running a full-on campaign to challenge Bloomberg.

Hoovervilles Give Way To Bushvilles

When glancing at the images that capture the Great Depression, the infamous "Hoovervilles" are very much a part of what was captured by Ansel Adams. The desperation in the faces of both young and old are evident. Hope is lost, misery remains. Although their makeshift towns were named after Hoover, policies that helped bring them to that degree of poverty began many years before Hoover beat Al Smith in 1928. The same is true of George W. Bush, who's name is enshrined not on airports or high schools, but the tent cities across America that are growing here and now in 2009. Everyone knows that times are tough, but seeing these Bushvilles makes it all the more real.

From DailyKos:

Well sadly those shanty towns, those Hoovervilles, have now become Bushvilles, thanks to the do-nothing policies of the Bush Administration and the continued elitist "let them eat dirt" policies of the Republican Party. These are the images of the new Bushvilles:

Bushville Bushville

These are from the new and growing tent city in Sacramento, one of America's new Bushvilles. This tent city has an estimated population of 1500 people and is growing at a rate of 50 people per week.


Seen above is Karen Hersh. She's a newly unemployed truck driver and now she's doing her best to keep her new home clean.


This is Tammy Day, with her husband, preparing their dinner over one of the Bushville's campfires. The unemployment rate in Sacramento reached a depressing 10.4% in January and the city has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.

Bushville Bushville

Here Ben Cardwell, a resident of this Bushville is helping carry supplies to the camp.

And despite the fact that their country and government has failed them, there's still clearly a faith and hope that America's greatest days are still ahead and they will soon see a better day:


This isn't some elaborate hoax, this is real life for an increasing amount of Americans today. This is what happens when government is destroyed from the inside and greed is allowed to flourish for the select few. Like 1933, Obama is left to clean Bush's mess as FDR had to pick up after Hoover, Coolidge and Harding. FDR, save for 1937, spent enough money to erase much of the damage done by the "Roaring 20s." Obama must realize that even with the stimulus act more must be done to get this country out of our economic rut. For no other reason, we must not be a nation that leaves its' citizens to live in makeshift tent cities.

Thompson Calls Bloomberg "Out Of Touch" For Defending The Rich

Cty comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson was at City Hall yesterday and called Mayor Bloomberg out for his defense of the rich. It's as if Bloomberg were trying to make it easy to attack him as an out-of-touch billionaire....Oh yeah that's right, he is an out-of-touch billionaire.

Congressman Cantor Thinks Life-Saving Research Is A Distraction

Just when you think that the Republican *cough* leadership couldn't distance themselves more from the American public, Eric Cantor (R-VA) comes through for his party. Today, Barack Obama will officially end the White House ban on embryonic stem cell research. In response, Mr. Cantor says that this is a distraction for the nation in our time of economic peril (caused by his party's love of greed and deregulation, but that's besides the point). Perhaps the Congressman would like to say that to these people, or perhaps this group, just so that they know how compassionate conservatism is supposed to work.

In his own callous, uncaring and purely political words:

"Why are we going and distracting ourselves from the economy? This is job No. 1. Let's focus on what needs to be done," Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican whip in the House of Representatives, told CNN's "State of the Union."[...]

Cantor, R-Virginia, has been among the leaders of GOP opposition to Obama's economic policies.

In a conference call with reporters, (White House domestic policy adviser Melody) Barnes said funding research is also part of the administration's plan to boost the plunging U.S. economy.

"Advances with regard to science and technology help advance our overall national goals around economic growth and job creation," she said, adding, "I think anytime you make an effort to try and separate these pieces of the puzzle, you're missing the entire picture."

And of course, that is what it is all about. Eric Cantor, along with the great majority of his dwindling party just doesn't get the big picture. He can't understand that Americans want to find cures for diseases and that by doing so, you create (drumroll please) jobs! To Cantor, the "economy" is code word for less taxes on the rich and more penalties for the poor. Then when you talk about spending freezes at a time like this, it shows a real loathing for the health of our nation and partisan politics gone wild. So for the people out there that are waiting for stem-cell research to help find treatments for your particular disease, Eric Cantor doesn't just not care about you, that uncaring attitude is reserved for all of us.

Homeless Problem In NYC Is Larger Than Bloomberg's Counters Care To Admit

At the end of the week I heard about the report from the city that there was a substantial drop in the number of the homeless living on the streets of Gotham. Immediately it sounded like a substantial amount of BS, so I waited a couple of days until I saw a follow up report on what is really going on in terms of the actual street homeless problem we face. Simply put, a 30% drop in the population is wholly unrealistic. The "official" homeless count of 2,328 presented by Mr. Hess from the DHS is even more incredulous than the drop.

From the NYT Cityroom:

The total of 2,328 people counted in the survey, Mr. Hess said, is “a far cry from the 4,395 that we first counted in 2005.”

Not a chance, responded the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group in New York.

“The numbers released by the city today defy credibility and run counter to what New Yorkers observe every day on New York’s streets,” Mary Brosnahan, the executive director, said in a statement. “The Bloomberg administration is claiming that there is the same number of homeless people in New York City as in San Diego — a city with one sixth of New York’s population. Looked at over a four-year period the city is arguing it has cut street homelessness in half. Do New Yorkers really think there are half as many homeless people on our streets as four years ago?”
We certainly do not, unless you live at Gracie Mansion an expanding 17 E. 79th St. it is extremely difficult to not gauge our city's homeless problem as either staying the same or increasing. Even Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs knows better than to just sweep this problem under the rug:

“You know, this is a little bit counterintuitive,” said Deputy Mayor Linda I. Gibbs, who oversees homeless programs. “How is it that, in this economy, with everything that’s going on and all the need we see, with the recession, the loss of jobs, the instability in the housing market — how is it that we can see such a dramatic drop, a 30 percent drop, in street homelessness this year compared to last?”
We already know academia thinks these things are hooey. One of the city's spokesmen tried backpedaling after the response from advocates of the homeless and scientists who would have preferred to use a scientific methodology for counting those that live on the streets. I don't know if they answered Ms. Gibbs' question, but I will.

The reason we see such a drop is that the Mayor (and/or his Administration) wants to see that drop, whether it is real or imaginary. The "progress" he shows is a part of his business model for the city, so that the shareholders voters are more amenable to leaving him in charge for another four years. In that lies the ultimate problem, that Bloomberg runs the city as a business, and not like a city that its' citizens, whether they be homeless or not, deserve.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Obama To Reduce U.S. Presence In Iraq 10% By September

Talking about reducing the amount of our troops in Iraq is one thing, but actually doing it is democracy in action. America selected Barack Obama to be President for many reasons, but this is certainly one of the bigger issues. Hopefully we'll see the rest of them out of there as soon as humanly possible.

Cleaning Up The M.T.A. In Order To Fund It Is Harder Than It Looks

We still do not have a bailout plan ready to go for the M.T.A. and we mainly have the State Senate to thank for that. I already remarked (perhaps a lil' harshly) a couple days ago about the Gang of Three's role in stalling the bill but I must admit that there are ways we can clean up the Authority in the process of funding it so that we don't have to pay $103 for monthly cards. Some ideas coming from the Senate are listed below.

From The Gothamist:

Word is that a bailout plan for the MTA could begin making its way through state legislatures in the week ahead. This past week was one that only seemed to present stalling for any potential alternatives to the looming threat of a $100 monthly Metrocard. Despite a push from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, any serious talk of bringing tolls to the East River crossings has hit a snag with the Democratic bloc in the State Senate known as the Three Amigos demanding the MTA "go back to the drawing board" and calling for an audit for the agency. The new bailout plan would come with some potential reorganization for the MTA, a full-time chief executive position replacing the two part-time voluntary roles filled by Elliot Sander (pictured) and Dale Hemmerdinger. The legislature could also see a revenue driven proposal from Governor Paterson that would substantially raise DMV registration fees.
Paying a CEO sounds more costly than the $0 perks given to Sander and Hemmerdinger. There are already enough exorbitant salaries paid out to the executives within the transit authority. As for Paterson's idea, raising DMV fees can only a partial solution, since if we raise them too high they'll be another punitive tax on the working class who aren't close to mass transit.

In an ideal world we'd dissolve the Authority and make the apparatus more accountable to the people that ride their buses and trains, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon. "Radical change" and "Albany" mix as well as oil and water. For now we'll just have to scream and shout at Albany and hope they'll listen to the needs of straphangers and not intrasigent State Senators who think their South Bronx constituents rely more on taxis than the subway.